Throughout Lucille Ball's career, she donated a number of costumes to WCA Hospital as keepsakes, and during a special dinner presentation on Thursday at the Tropicana Room, one of those costumes was presented to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy.
The dedication ceremony for Lucille Ball's ringmaster costume included a formal presentation by Betsy T. Wright, WCA Hospital president and CEO, an acceptance speech by Journey Gunderson, executive director at the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center and a catered dinner for fans of Lucy to enjoy while the original 1977 television episode of "Circus of the Stars" that Ball wore the costume in was shown.
"The Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy brings many people to the Jamestown area," said Wright. "So, we at WCA are so pleased to be able to contribute to this event.
"We are pleased that Lucille Ball, during her lifetime, was very generous to the community and to WCA Hospital," she continued. "She donated many of her costumes to WCA for our fundraising at Country Capers. This one (the ringmaster costume) we've had at the hospital and we think this (the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy) is the appropriate home for this 'Circus of the Stars' costume."
According to Gunderson, the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center is an attraction that brings in more than 20,000 visitors a year from all over the world.
"We are committed to giving you all a reason to keep coming back," said Gunderson. "The people that make things like that possible now include WCA hospital. So, we are extremely appreciative of WCA Hospital for this donation.
"It is my understanding that WCA Hospital held an annual fundraiser and that Lucille Ball never forgot about her hometown, even though she didn't live in Jamestown at the time, so she would donate an outfit almost every year to the fundraiser," she continued. "This particular outfit was really fitting because it's a ringmaster outfit that she wore when she was the master of ceremonies for the television special 'Circus of the Stars.'"
The dedication ceremony at the Tropicana Room sold to capacity with a total of 90 seats being filled. According to Gunderson, that speaks volumes to the importance of a donation of this kind.
"We have costumes in our collection, but few that are as spectacular as this one," said Gunderson. "So, when I got the call from WCA Hospital in early 2012 I was curious as to what this costume was, and together we researched it to pinpoint exactly what it was. Then when I saw it I just hit the roof. It's so beautiful, unique and literally dazzling."
The costume will likely be displayed on the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum side of the attraction among the other outfits that have been donated, according to Gunderson.
According to a WCA Hospital press release, "Circus of the Stars" was an annual television special, broadcast by the CBS network in the U.S., in which celebrities performed circus-type acts. There were 19 shows in total, the first being broadcast in 1977 and the last in 1994.
The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy is located at 2 W. Third St. in Jamestown. For more information call 484-0800 or visit lucy-desi.com. To find out more about Lucy Fest visit lucycomedyfest.com.