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DLIA's Salamander Ball born from strong partnership

Posted by | 09.11.2015

“Salamanders big, salamanders small! Come one, come all to the Salamanders Ball.”

GSMA's Lisa Horstman signs copies of her book
"The Great Smoky Mountain Salamander Ball"
for a skunk and a deer attending Discover Life in
America's Salamander Ball.

On a tiny scrap of paper found along side an even smaller set of footprints, our heroine discovers a party invitation like no other. “We’ll have a big party, yes, this much is true. With feasting and dancing and playing games, too.”

That very same invitation - first offered to Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s youngest visitors in 1997 – is once again being extended to “big and small” park patrons passionate about supporting Discover Life in America, whose mission it is to discover and catalog all life found park, from ferns and fungi to birds and beetles.

DLIA’s annual Salamander Ball takes its inspiration from the book by the same name published by Great Smoky Mountains Association and written and illustrated by GSMA’s Lisa Horstman. Inasmuch, the event represents one of the national park’s strongest partnerships between GSMA and DLIA, said Executive Director Todd Witcher.

“DLIA is lucky to have great partners, startingwith Great Smoky Mountains National Park, GSMA, the Friends of the Smokies, Tremont and many others. These partners have made our project the great success it is,” Witcher said.

“Steve Kemp (GSMA’s interpretive products director) contacted me about doing a children’s book about salamanders in the national park,” Horstman said. “The whole thing started after we came across an archived newspaper article about a couple travelling late at night through the Smokies years ago. They had stumbled upon what looked like thousands of salamanders crossing the road.

“We wondered where those salamanders could have been going, and someone cracked that they were probably headed to a big party,” she continued. “Thus ‘The Great Smoky Mountain Salamander Ball’ was born.”

From poetic verse to actual, live event, this year’s Salamander Ball will leap off the pages Saturday, Sept. 26, from 6:30-10 p.m. at the Knoxville Zoo, another of DLIA’s most ardent partners, Witcher said.

“If you’ve ever marveled at the depth, breadth and beauty of wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, then you are exactly the type person this premiere event in support of conservation and science was designed for,” said Witcher.

Designed for the enjoyment of the entire family, DLIA’s Salamander Ball includes an evening of merriment highlighted by a masquerade component for adults and children of all ages so come dressed as their favorite Smokies’ critter, as portrayed by Horstman’s illustration.  The evening also features live music by Vibraslaps; an appearance by Big Red, the giant salamander; a Critter Parade; silent auction; as well as hors d’oeuvres and beverage by Holly’s Eventful Dining.

“We’re thrilled to once again have the author herself with us during this event to autograph her book for everyone in attendance,” Witcher said. “Every year Lisa graciously gives of her time and talent, not only to the benefit of the wondrous biodiversity in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but more importantly to introduce another generation of park supporters to the magic this place has to offer. We cannot thank her enough.”

“With just 32 pages of vibrant illustrations and verse, Lisa conveys so many important messages about the Smokies,” said Kemp. “The book’s protagonist begins her adventure by earning a Junior Ranger badge, which puts her on the path to becoming a park ambassador and eventually a park ranger herself. Her story – like DLIA’s real-life Salamander Ball – serves as inspiration for all who espouse the importance of conservation and preservation for special places like the Smokies.”  

GSMA’s “Great Smoky Mountain Salamander Ball,” Horstman’s first collaboration with the nonprofit that operates each of the national park visitor centers, led to six more picture books: “The Troublesome Cub,” “Wee Ones,” “The Smokies Yukky Book” (written Doris Gove), “We're Going to the Mountains” (written by Kemp), “Scavenger Hike Adventures” (written by Kat and John LaFevre), and her latest, “Sabrina: A Great Smoky Mountains Story.” Combining her love of books with the craft of illustration began with the publication of “Fast Friends” in 1994, when she was named the recipient of the Dr. Seuss Picturebook Award from Alfred A. Knopf.

A non-profit partner of the national park, Great Smoky Mountains Association derives its support for the park primarily from sales of ranger-approved sales items and membership dues. Those who wish to enrich their Smokies experience are encouraged to “Get Rooted in the Smokies” through membership. For more information about GSMA, visit or call toll-free 888.898.9102.

DLIA’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory is a unique ecological undertaking to find and document every species in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Undertaken initially in 1998, the ATBI serves as a model for efforts to document the diversity of life throughout the nation—at other national parks, state parks, and in other preserves, large and small. To date, more than 900 new-to-science species have been identified and some 8,000 species have been identified new to the Smokies.

For more information on DLIA’s Salamander Ball, including tickets prices, visit or call 865-430-4757.

Tagged: GSMA News

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