The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

April 15, 2013

ALL ABOARD!

By HOWARD BALABAN
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — A gathering of local residents and visitors from across the country and the world transported themselves to the early part of the 20th Century Saturday night at The Pillars in Albion.

The estate, owned and operated by Tim McMurtrie, played host to the Second Annual Titanic Ball. Many in attendance dressed the part for the evening’s festivities, wearing attire that hearkened back to the Titanic’s time period.

McMurtrie’s passion for anything and everything Titanic stems from a familial connection to the ill-fated ship.

“My grandmother’s eldest brother worked on the ship,” he said, adding that the ballroom of The Pillars was designed with the Titanic ballroom in mind.

Last year and this year an orchestra performed music specific to the time period. Also this year, McMurtrie said the menu available to guests was the same available to passengers 101 years ago.

At one table sat a handful of McMurtrie’s friends, including one who lives in England and a couple from outside Dallas, Texas by way of England and Holland. “We all worked on cruise ships together,” said Dutch native Hans Verbruggen of his European company. Hans, his wife Liz, and their friend Doly Baker, all made the trip to Western New York a year ago and decided they needed to return again because the inaugural event proved to be a blast.

Plus, Hans said, it takes place in a part of New York he appreciates.

“I’m more of a nature guy,” he said. “The big city is not for me.” He added that he planned on making a trip a little further west to visit Niagara Falls on this visit because he has never seen it. 

Another couple at the table made the trip from north of Toronto, and two others were more local. One, Irene Will of Alabama, said she remembered The Pillars before McMurtrie revitalized it, and before he added the ballroom.

“This was all just wild bushes behind the house,” she said. “Now, though, I love what he’s done with the place. I’m up here all the time.”

Tammy Zambito, a Pavilion resident, said she thought the event itself qualified as “fabulous.”

Former Hospice of Orleans employee Cora Goyette of Albion, who recently retired, served as a sort of educator/orator at the event. Goyette spoke to the crowd about Titanic’s history at McMurtrie’s request. She said the Titanic Ball is a wonderful event for all of Orleans County because there are not too many local happenings that feature such a unique style and flair.

That style can be partially attributed to the dress code, which considers the evening a “black tie affair” with “vintage attire encouraged.” McMurtrie said his reasoning behind such an idea came from a lack of seeing such opportunities for adults.

“I like seeing the people get dressed up, come out, and have a good time,” he said. The occasions to do so are few and far between, and the ball offers people a chance to enjoy a night out, he said.

A new feature this year to the event were the Rochester-based Shannonside Ceili Dancers, an Irish dancing troupe McMurtrie hired for the evening to act as “steerage” passengers. In fact, they were relegated to waiting outside the ballroom until after formal dinner service so they could “surprise” the guests with a performance. One member joked, “I hoping we get some leftovers!” 

The all-women group, comprised of 33 members, sent six to Saturday’s gala. One said the experience of finding clothing to fit the time period was just as much fun as being at the event.

Added her colleague, “This event is awesomely unique.”

As for how the event plays out next year, McMurtrie predicted his “most spectacular ever.”