A masquerade ball may seem strange to the average tourist vacationing in Wisconsin, but it has become part of what made the reputation of Lake Geneva’s Baker House.
The ball started as a housewarming party, then grew into an event that Baker House’s Bethany Souza sees as a compliment to the activities during the Lake Geneva Jaycees Venetian Festival.
Now that Baker House, 327 Wrigley Drive, has been relaunched, there is much to celebrate Sunday, Aug. 18, during this year’s Venetian Masquerade Ball.
It will be a fantasy-filled evening with decadent dining, magical entertainment and first-class seats to the Venetian Fest activities on Geneva Lake, such as the lighted boat parade and the fireworks finale.
The Ball also serves as Souza’s 50th birthday party and her retirement party.
In the following Q&A, she explained the history behind the party and what the future holds for her and the Baker House.
Note: The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Resorter: How did you come up with the idea for a masquerade ball?
Bethany Souza: The idea for the Ball was to build off of the current Venetian Festival theme. Festivals and carnivals in Venice actually date back to the 13th century with elaborate costumes balls, with dancing and debauchery being annual community events — as early as the 16th century. Contrary to popular belief, the reason for wearing masks was not to hide your identity, but to hide your social class. It’s an incredible concept that has lasted centuries!
What makes the event special to you, personally?
My parents were very supportive and involved with all the events that I created at Baker House and Maxwell Mansion, and when my stepfather unexpectedly passed away in July of 2015, I couldn’t mentally throw the party without him there. ... I had another unexpected life change shortly after that had me leave the company and the events that I was known for producing, such as the Ice Bar, and Masquerade sadly went dormant. So when I agreed to come back this summer to work with Roland (Wolfe), the new owner, it was only fitting we bring back an amazing party to welcome him to his new home and celebrate my retirement and 50th birthday! The Masquerade Ball this year will also be a party for our summer staff and family, thanking them for all that they do!
Why are you retiring?
Most people laugh at the word retirement coupled in the same sentence with me because of my drive. But I have down-shifted a lot in the last few years and have had much more of a desire to spend time with family and friends, nurturing the most important things in life before they are gone. I didn’t always do that. Work was always a priority, and my family often suffered. My son just turned 18 and I am so lucky to have been able to come back and spend the summer working with him at the home — Baker House — which he grew up in. But when he heads off to school in September, I decided it is time for me to hang up my hat at Baker House and prepare for my next journey. I will continue to take on creative projects that nurture my razzle-dazzle nature, but I will no longer be tethered specifically to a town or business.
What’s in store for the business?
There are still decisions being made with the new owner, Roland, and all the amazing people that made this summer relaunch possible. It’s most likely that our award winning Sunday Champagne Brunch will continue, along with private events through the winter, and I’m sure with the right coaxing I could always return to create an Ice Bar!
The Venetian Masquerade Ball is Aug. 18, from 6 to 10 p.m.
Guests can indulge in savory Mediterranean delights as they stroll through the mansion, feasting in Venetian-inspired cuisine, including fresh Caesar salad, homemade pasta and a dessert bar served by a strolling Masked Madame.
Vintage libations will be served at a cash bar.
There are two tickets to the event.
A $25 party pass allows garden party access from 8:30 to 10 p.m. for cash bar, entertainment and fireworks.
For the Venetian dinner and ball, cost is $48 per guest, which includes access to festivities throughout the first floor of Baker House, the lakefront garden, a Venetian mask, grand buffet dinner, music, entertainment and fireworks.
Tickets sold in advance, during business hours.
Guests are encouraged to attend in festive or fancy attire, but not required.
For more information, call (262) 248-4700.