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Local debutantes step out in style

Gone are the days when presentation at a Debutante Ball meant that women were prepared for marriage, but it still stands as a long-honored tradition for many families.
Six local young women participated in the 60th annual Western Carolina Debutante Ball held Saturday, June 17, at Cleveland Community College.
Sponsored by the Junior Charity League of Shelby, the night saw 53 women representing 15 North Carolina cities and towns presented to society.
Erika Chapman, Kathryn Geerken, Whitney Goins, Angela Graham, Shaina McCraw and Meghan Sipe represented Lincoln County at the ball.
Geerken, a recent East Lincoln graduate, found her involvement in debutante activities character building.
“This has made me appreciate what my family has taught me – empathy and open-mindedness,” she said.
Geerken, who plans to major in psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, felt her participation in Cotillion and debutante activities provided a leg up when she applied to college.
“This grabs their attention,” she said. “It says a lot about you.”
With roots in England, the American tradition began in 1748 when 59 Philadelphia colonial families held “Dancing Assemblies,” the forerunner to the debutante ball, according to Linda Clingerman, member of the San Marino Woman’s Club Debutante Guild.
Now used as a charity function, funds raised through the debutante ball assist the Junior League of Shelby’s ongoing volunteer efforts.
“Kids on the Block,” an educational puppet show for Cleveland County third-graders and “The Clothing Room,” a donated-clothing facility that provides free clothing for 900 people yearly, are major recipients of money raised.
Geerken benefited from both the charitable nature of the event and the social opportunities.
“This allows you to meet a great variety of people,” she said. “This is a great stepping stone into the world of business.”

Whitney Sipe and other debutantes practice a formal procession for last Saturday’s big event. Maribeth Kiser / LTN Photo
by Katie Rozycki

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