The Russian Winter Ball brought a touch of snow to the St. Petersburg Yacht Club on January 21, 2017. The elegantly dressed guests were treated to dancing by West Florida Ballet and ballroom champions Ekaterina Kolomgova and Carlos Mateu and music from The Dazzlers and Elona Krasavtseva, known as “the golden voice of Russia.”
This event brought to mind the history of the city in which it was held. According to local lore, the city’s co-founders, General John Williams, a land developer, and Peter Demens, a Russian aristocrat who brought a railroad to the city, flipped a coin to determine who would win naming rights to the city. Demens prevailed, and he named the city after his Russian hometown of St. Petersburg.
The Florida and Russian St. Petersburgs have been officially designated Sister Cities since 1961. St. Petersburg, Florida is home to a number of residents of Russian descent, including former Mayor Rick Baker. Baker welcomed partygoers at the ball and shared with them that he also has Russian roots.
The ball benefited the Russian Heritage organization, which supports educational and cultural programs in Tampa Bay, like the St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society’s annual fair. A group of Russian-Americans in Tampa Bay formed the non-profit in 1995 after a successful Russian art exhibit at the now-closed Florida International Museum at St. Petersburg College.