WILLIAMS BAY — The Williams Bay Women’s Banquet on May 14 will provide an evening of fun, food and friendship, with just a little bit of rebelliousness thrown in.
This is the 93rd year of the banquet.
Each banquet has a different theme, and no two themes have been the same.
This year’s theme is Glam Jam. It is a pajama party, and the menu will feature waffles, hash brown potatoes, bacon and sausage.
“Breakfast food is my favorite, and I wondered, how do you get waffles for dinner?” said Emily Sanders, chairwoman of this year’s 22-member banquet committee.
“It was a crazy idea, and the committee jumped on it,” she said.
Suggested evening dress for the banquet is pajamas.
The committee took a lot of inspiration from past banquets to create this year’s event.
Sanders, who is the youth services librarian at Barrett Memorial Library in Williams Bay, has lived in Williams Bay for six years. She attended her first women’s banquet three years ago. And she fell in love with it.
She said she is impressed and inspired by the history of the banquet, which was started by four Williams Bay women who wanted a night out with friends without having to cook.
What makes the banquet different from other banquets, balls and benefits is that it is not connected to any other civic organization, charity or group.
Although the banquet might raise money for something special — such as equipment for the Williams Bay Fire Department or service markers for the memorial stones in Edgewater Park — it stands alone. And it stands strong.
“What a brave, brazen and fun thing this banquet has been,” Sanders said. “The tradition is rooted in fun. It’s a time to meet old friends and make new ones.”
According to the history of the banquet, preserved in a series of scrapbooks in the library, the idea of a Williams Bay banquet for women was born on an autumn morning in 1926 in the home of Mrs. Hazel Bjorge.
She and Mrs. Hilda Hollister and other acquaintances commiserated about how sad it was that they did not get together as often as they liked.
The men had their bowling nights and poker nights, and even a men-only Men’s Annual Banquet. The women had the kitchen.
It was time to break free. Mrs. Hollister suggested setting aside one night a year when the women could get dressed up, go out with friends and have someone else cook and serve them a meal.
Mrs. Bjorge was elected the first chairwoman of the Williams Bay Women’s Banquet.
The first banquet was at the Rose Lane Lodge in Williams Bay on May 24, 1927. Tickets were $1 each.
Included with the meal were entertainment and speakers. That first banquet drew 101 women.
At the end of that first night, the banquet committee asked guests for a 10-cent donation to purchase a white elm tree to plant in Edgewater Park. The committee also took a vote of all present and decided to make the banquet an annual affair.
While the banquet is in its 93rd year, this year will be only the 90th banquet. The event was put in abeyance during the World War II years of 1943, 1944 and 1945.
But no sooner did the war end than the banquet started up again in 1946, and it has been an annual event since.
The event draws between 200 and 350 guests every year.
Past banquets have honored the nations of Switzerland and Canada, the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” the Oscars, newspapers, the circus, and the humble cow.
Sanders said she and this year’s banquet committee decided to return to the idea of a fun night out. This year’s proceeds will be set aside as a nest egg to pay for future women’s banquets.
This year’s banquet is at The Ridge, W4240 State Highway 50, in the town of Geneva just west of Lake Geneva.
Tickets are $40 for the meal, but for another $15 banquet-goers get a wristband that allows them to enjoy bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys.
Tickets are available in Williams Bay at the library, 65 W. Geneva St.; Braghii Coffee & Wine Bar, 107 N. Walworth Ave.; Burrough’s Floor Covering, 240 Elkhorn Road; and online at Eventbrite.com.
Sanders said ticket sales will end four days before the banquet. And this year, tickets will not be sold at the door.