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155th Guard Gala turnout expected to double

WAGNER -- The second annual 155th Guard Gala will have a new look. The event, scheduled for 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. today at the Wagner Armory, is expected to draw in a crowd more than double the size of last year's gala, and will feature a host of new...

Tracy Vogt, left, and Stefanie Pistulka get photos taken by a professional photographer during the first annual 155th Guard Gala on Saturday night at the Wagner Armory. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)
People have professional portraits taken during the first-ever 155th Guard Gala in February 2016. The second annual event is scheduled for today at the Wagner Armory.

WAGNER - The second annual 155th Guard Gala will have a new look.

The event, scheduled for 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. today at the Wagner Armory, is expected to draw in a crowd more than double the size of last year's gala, and will feature a host of new activities.

The most important change, according to event organizer Whitney Podzimek, is the people who will attend this year.

The 162 members of the 155th Engineer Co., the military unit for which the Guard Gala is held, were in Kuwait at the time of the 2016 event, and more than 100 are expected to attend tonight's function.

"They didn't get to enjoy this last year and they're excited to see what Jessica Nielsen (co-event organizer) and I have put together," Podzimek said Friday. "It's different from years past and that's always exciting."

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Before the Guard Gala was established, an annual military ball was held, complete with dinner and live bands, Podzimek said. But public interest dwindled throughout the years, so Podzimek and other people with ties to the 155th decided to make a change.

This year, the gala will feature food wine and beer tasting, professional photography, poker tables, dart boards, a silent auction and shopping from vendors. Prior to the gala, which is open to the public, members of the 155th and their families will attend a banquet at the Two Spurs Lounge & Bar in Wagner. And, after the event, live music and drinks will be sold at the armory until midnight.

Podzimek said she is expecting between 350 and 400 people to attend throughout the evening, compared to the approximately 150 at last year's event. Money raised will be given to the 155th Morale Fund, which is intended to provide guard members and their families with opportunities to "get together, collaborate and become a cohesive unit," Podzimek said.

But the fun doesn't stop when the clock strikes midnight.

On Sunday, there will be a "family Christmas" held for the 155th, during which soldiers' children are presented with gifts, Santa visits and catered food is provided.

"We're excited to do this again and hopefully bring in more money for their morale fund and have a good time doing it," Podzimek said. "We're hoping to keep continuing this tradition, because it's been fun."

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