By Donna Cornelius
Journal features writer
David Millhouse’s volunteer duties at the annual Beaux Arts Krewe Ball usually are behind the scenes.
But this year, he’ll be front and center when he reigns as king at the Krewe’s 47th annual event, set for Feb. 28 at Birmingham’s Boutwell Auditorium.
Like most other Krewe members, Millhouse is accustomed to pitching in to transform Boutwell into a glittering setting for the ball.
“Over the years, I’ve sort of taken on a self-imposed role of building a lot,” Millhouse said. “The Krewe has five different scenes that we rotate every year. I’ve built carts to transport all the scenery.”
The Krewe traditionally announces its king, who is selected by Krewe members, before the event. This year, the announcement was made Feb. 3 at a luncheon at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Also in keeping with tradition, the Krewe queen is selected from among the young women who will be presented at the ball. The queen’s identity is kept secret until it’s revealed at the event.
Millhouse, who serves on the Krewe’s board of directors, learned he would be swapping his hammer for a scepter when some fellow members invited him to lunch at Birmingham Country Club.
“They called and said they needed to have a meeting with me to talk about the Krewe activities,” Millhouse said.
He didn’t realize the true purpose of the meeting until one of the men mentioned “dukes,” Millhouse said.
“They really pulled the wool over my eyes—it took me a while to catch on,” he said, laughing.
Millhouse is a Birmingham native who’s lived all his life “in a small radius,” he said.
“I was raised in Homewood. My parents moved to Cherokee Bend in the mid-60s,” he said.
He and his wife, Kate, have lived in their Old Leeds Circle home for about 16 years, Millhouse said.
The Auburn University graduate also considers Auburn a “second home,” he said.
Millhouse was an AU sophomore when he met Kate McTyeire. He was involved in the school’s cooperative education program that semester, he said.
“It was the winter quarter, and I went to a basketball game,” he said. “I saw Kate across the way and asked my friends, ‘Who is that?’ We got married five years later, in 1978.”
Millhouse is a senior estimator at Robins & Morton, a construction and engineering company. Building also is a hobby for him.
“My father cut my teeth on construction,” Millhouse said. “He was an engineer and built the houses I grew up in. I got my exposure to that, and it never went away.”
While he likes to work on projects at home, Millhouse has been happy to help with Krewe construction duties, too. The carts he’s built make it easier to transport the scenes used for the ball, he said. This year, the carts will carry the scenes for the 2014 theme, Mardi Gras.
“I have enjoyed being behind the scenes,” Millhouse said. “Being the king is kind of atypical for me. I’m not an out-front kind of guy.”
Millhouse said he and other Krewe members enjoy working together to make the ball a success.
“What’s fun is that Boutwell Auditorium transforms in a matter of five to six hours from start to finish,” he said. “We start on Thursday, early, about 7 a.m. By noon, about 90 percent is done.”
When the ball ends, Krewe members have to dismantle the room.
“About 1 a.m., all that stuff comes down. We’re out by 3:30 or 4,” Millhouse said.
Krewe members willingly shoulder their assigned duties, he said.
“We all buy into this,” he said. “Everyone knows what to do, so you’re not teaching the process all over again every year. Everybody is enthusiastic. It’s a well-greased machine.”
The event is primarily a debutante ball, Millhouse said. Thirty-five young women will be presented this year.
“But the main purpose of the Krewe is to provide funds for the Birmingham Museum of Art,” he said. “It’s a fun way to raise money.”
Millhouse said he loves the “teamwork and camaraderie” of Krewe members.
“I’ve met a lot of great guys I wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise,” he said.
In addition to the Krewe, Millhouse has another passion—the Boy Scouts, he said.
“I was an Eagle Scout, and I’m the scoutmaster for Troop 86 at St. Luke’s Episcopal,” he said. “I was a scout in Troop 86 when I was younger. Both my sons were in 86 and were Eagle Scouts, too.”
The impact scouting has on kids is “incredible,” he said And for adult leaders, he added, the organization offers opportunities to learn.
“Scouts are big into training for adults, and I did my Wood Badge training through the Black Warrior Council,”
Wood Badge is the Boy Scouts’ highest level of adult leader training.
Millhouse, a track team member when he was a student at Mountain Brook High School, still runs, he said.
“I’m a big runner,” he said. “I used to run competitively in races around town. I run now because it’s in my blood. I get up early and put my six to seven miles in.”
He’s been in 12 marathons, including the Boston Marathon, and also competed in some triathlons, he said.
The Millhouses have three children. Robert, 31, is an Auburn University graduate now working for Maxus Construction in Birmingham. Katherine, 26, is an AU veterinary student who’s married to Dr. Michael Roeder, a veterinarian in Albertville. Adam, 19, is a freshman at Auburn.
“Our daughter was Krewe queen in 2008,” Millhouse said. “Since we have that experience, we think being king is a lot easier. The queen has a lot more to do.”
His wife agreed.
“The king doesn’t have to have a dress made or have his hair or makeup done,” his wife said, smiling.
To reign over the ball, Millhouse will wear the Krewe king’s costume made by pageant director Deborah Fleischman of Huntsville.
“She’s been associated with the Krewe for about 30 years now,” Millhouse said. “She has made all the costumes.”
The costumes are designed to fit almost anybody, Millhouse said.
“They’re made to be adjustable,” he said, “and I’m using the crown that belongs to the Krewe.”
Millhouse will have a large royal retinue at the ball. The king’s dukes are always Krewe members, while his trainbearers are customarily the children or grandchildren of family members and friends.
Millhouse’s dukes include his brother-in-law Richard Drennen, Frank Ager, Bill Bowron, Guerry Denson, Lee Jackson, Jeff Stone, Ed Thomas and Meade Whitaker.
His trainbearers are his great-niece Anna Catherine Carr and great-nephew Sam Carr, Sarah Welles Edwards, Jack Allison and Kara Leigh Whitaker, the granddaughter of duke Meade Whitaker.