Viennese Winter Ball Made Possible With ‘Royal Fanfare’

Shown with some of the props for the annual Viennese Winter Ball are from left, Chad Stratton, Ellen Culler and Robert Contraguerro at Panhandle Cleaning & Restoration facilities where the items are stored each year. Photo Provided

WHEELING — Thirty-eight years ago, when Sheila Barrett and Joan Robin envisioned a grand affair for the city of Wheeling, it was the Viennese Winter Ball that emerged after a visit to Vienna. This ball became a benefit for the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, and has remained a major fundraiser for 38 years. The event entails a ballroom full of props, or “treasures” as the Ball Committee likes to call them. From banners and elegant chandeliers, to life-size angels, all are poised ready to announce royal visitors.

To help organize this treasure chest of props takes a team. It’s an ensemble cast of movers, organizers and creative designers. Storing and moving these treasures takes a royal court nothing short of the Buckingham Palace staff. The first unveiling of the storage bins each year is likened to Indiana Jones finding the Arc of the Covenant, with life-size angels peering our of the back corners ready to shake the dust off of their wings. They stand ready for their cameo appearance welcoming guests of the ball to the stairway and high above the ceiling of Glessner Auditorium.

“Our Royal Affair has been in the best of many hands. One star of the court is the Contraguerro family of Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration,” said Ellen Culler.

They are tireless benefactors to the community of the Upper Ohio Valley. One often sees the Panhandle name on many charitable projects and events in our community and across the state. Who can’t sing the Panhandle jingle, or doesn’t feel comfort when one sees the big red truck in front of your home or business when you are in need? When it comes time to move the props, the big red truck moves our celestial angels from storage to Oglebay and back,

For 28 years, Ohio Valley Medical Center donated storage space to the Ball Committee for their props. Ten years ago, they were moved to their current home provided by Panhandle. The angels never felt so cool within their climate- controlled vaults! Our student volunteers have become very good and packing and unpacking these vaults. Storing the items within these vaults has made the process of organizing, storing and transporting them far more efficient and effortless.

Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration supports the Viennese Winter Ball in a grand way, and by doing so, it has supported the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra. The Contraguerro family helps us keep this unique event filled with wonderful ambience, elegance and traditions of old world charm in our greater Wheeling community.


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