Cinderella for the Night

For Katie Davenport, one of 11 debutantes in the Cinderella Ball, she really wanted to be presented by her father into society.

“It was an honor,” said Katie, 17, of Shadyside. She was nervous leading up to the presentation and very sore from practicing curtsies “every single minute.” But when the time came to walk out in front of 350 guests filling the Omni William Penn ballroom on Saturday, January 28, 2017, she wasn’t nervous anymore.

Sarah Scalise, 18, of Peters, was more excited than nervous about being presented. “You walk out and there are lights and everyone is watching you. It was really fun to be out there and feeling like a Cinderella.”

The Cinderella Ball, in its 91st year, first started as a benefit for St. Margaret Memorial Hospital, but now works with a different beneficiary organization each year. Sarah — who chose to participate in the Cinderella Ball because of the charity’s commitment to volunteer work matched her own dedication to volunteer — was one of two scholarship winners for the most hours spent volunteering. Elizabeth Verbica and Sarah both clocked 109 hours at the Carnegie Science Center. Working with children during the science center summer camps, Sarah realized “being a teacher is the right path for me. It reinforced what I want to do for myself.”

First time debutante Devin Gramley, 18, of Sharon, Pa., said the presentation was the end result of being selected as a debutante, completing community service work and learning to waltz. It’s about “what you learn and go through” in the process of being presented. Devin, who says she’s close to her father, would practice waltzing with him on the weekends. The ball was unlike anything she had done with her father: “It was our special night.”

Katie feels that rather than being about coming out into society, the ball was about coming-of-age.

“It was magical,” she said, realizing “I am turning 18 and about to go to college, I’m not a kid anymore.”

— Rebecca Droke

For a historical look at the Cinderella Ball visit The Digs.

Debutantes from left: Eliza Cochran, Devin Gramley, Alicia McMahon and Christina Recchi wait in the presidential suite before being presented at the 91st Cinderella Ball at the Omni William Penn in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Devin said because there were only 11 girls being presented, everyone got to know each other very well. “We just bonded,” she said. At one point, as the debutantes waited for the ball to start, Devin said they turned on the television and were watching “Say Yes To The Dress.” (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Nina Johns is presented by her father Budea Johns. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
The elbow-length white gloves are a tradition at the Cinderella Ball. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Alicia McMahon, left, and Devin Gramley, center, practice their curtsies before the start of the ball. “It was stressful at first,” recalls Devin. “All I could think about was that I was going to mess up the dances.” (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Childhood friends, from left, Lilah Hilliard, Molly Widdoes and Katie Davenport pose for a photo outside the presidential suite before the ball. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Lilah Hilliard, presented by her father Jamie Hilliard, right, is greeted by friends and family including her mother Christine Hilliard, third from left, as the ball begins. Lilah is a third-generation debutante. Her paternal grandmother and several aunts were debutantes. Her paternal grandfather was also Prince Charming in 1946, and her father was an escort for several debutantes. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Katie Davenport waits outside the ballroom to be presented. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Devin Gramley and other debutantes react as they play a game while waiting to be presented. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
From left, Bryan Whipkey, Henry Muse, Reed Widdoes, Archie Levis and Christian Romano, all floor committe members, hang out before the presentation of the debutantes. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Christina Recchi is presented by her father Mark Recchi. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
From left, Alicia McMahon, Katie Davenport, Eliza Cochran, Christina Recchi, Molly Widdoes and Giovanna Elo share a moment while waiting. The girls spent several hours dressed in their gowns before the start of the ball at seven o’clock in the evening. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Debutantes go up a flight of stairs as they try to stay out of sight from guests before they are presented. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Nina Johns, left, and Alicia McMahon stand in line before the presentation of the debutantes. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Ira Elo dances with his daughter Giovanna Elo as she is presented. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Guests watch as debutantes are presented. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Prince Charming Christopher Rudolf gets a high-five as walks through the ballroom to select Cinderella. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Lilah Hilliard was selected as Cinderella by Prince Charming, Christopher Rudolf. “It made me so happy,” Lilah said. Her paternal grandfather was Prince Charming in 1946, and the day after the ball, where she was presented at, was the second anniversary of her grandfather’s passing. “He was thinking about me and I was thinking about him.” (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Katie Davenport stands with her father Ronald Davenport, Jr., as the formal presentation ceremony ends. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Eliza Cochran hugs guests after she is presented. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Giovanna Elo poses for a picture with guests after being presented. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Floor committee members remove the cloth walkway after the debutantes are introduced. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)