The Jewel Ball is the main annual debutante ball held in Kansas City, Missouri, in the United States. It is organized by the Jewel Ball Foundation, which appoints a prominent Kansas City socialite to be the chairwoman.
Predecessor: The Priests of Pallas
Beginning in 1887, partially in response to the establishment of St. Louis's popular annual Veiled Prophet Fair and Veiled Prophet Ball in 1878, Kansas City held an annual harvest-time, Mardi Gras-style festival called the Priests of Pallas. It consisted of a public parade and an invitation-only debutante ball (the Priests of Pallas Ball), organized by a secret society of prominent Kansas Citians that called itself the Priests of Pallas. The first year, President Grover Cleveland attended. Gradually, however, the public lost interest. The festival was suspended for several years beginning in 1912, began again in 1922, and ended for good in 1924. The queen of the festival (Pallas Athene) in 1922 was Miss Ada Bell Files from Fort Scott, Kansas. She was a freshman at Lindenwood School (now Lindenwood University).
Inception and subsequent history
Other cities' established debutante festivities, such as St. Louis's annual Veiled Prophet Ball, however, lived on. By the 1950s, many prominent Kansas Citians thought that Kansas City again needed some sort of debutante festivities. In 1954, Clara Hockaday and Enid Kemper, prominent Kansas City social matrons, founded the Jewel Ball with help from local businessman Alfred Lighton.
Since its inception, the ball has benefited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kansas City Symphony. From 1954 until 2000, the ball was held in the main hall of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. A large construction project at the museum forced a temporary move to Swope Park's Starlight Theatre (Kansas City). The Jewel Ball returned to the museum in 2008.
The debutantes, or debs, are freshmen in college and come from some of the most prominent Kansas City families. A person can debut only if a family member has debuted before them or if the family makes a large donation.