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Michael Barnes

Hill Country Nights, Imaginarium at the Thinkery, Zilker Ballroom and more

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Kiki and Aaron Broughton at Revival Cycles during Tribeza Style Week.

Kiki and Aaron Broughton at Revival Cycles during Tribeza Style Week.

NATURE: “Delightful.” That’s what Cecil Ruby said about the deal with Hill Country Conservancy that will preserve his family’s ranchland in Hays County. Gracious, funny and open-hearted, Cecil, a social worker, and his wife, Marti Ruby, a court reporter, grinned while chilling on the Brazos Hall roof deck during the conservancy’s Hill Country Nights benefit. Recently, they’d reached an agreement that allows the land that his grandfather purchased in the 1930s to remain much as it is today, thereby also protecting a key recharge zone. Also ran into Debra Patt, leader of the Seton Breast Cancer Center, who told me about a special patient who has survived much longer than predicted. Must meet her.

SCHOOL: Imaginarium at the Thinkery. After the first of these imaginatively named events for what formerly was called the Austin Children’s Museum, an Old Austin matron turned to me to complain: “I didn’t know a single person there.” That’s right, in Old Austin, the point of a gala was, partly, to exclude and to designate certified members of the right social club. No longer. Now each event — six on Thursday, four on Friday, three on Saturday — attracts its own enthusiastic crowd. In its second year inside the Thinkery at Mueller, the Imaginarium has well outgrown its capacity, even with the help of a dinner tent. Similarly, the learning spot is already packed to the ceiling most days, according to a neighbor whose four children attend frequently. I hope expansion plans already exist.

STYLE: “This is probably the first time that the words ‘Lexus’ and ‘Tribeza’ have ever been attached to a half-pipe.”Indeed. The second event for Tribeza Style Week returned to Revival Cycles where biker culture met high fashion and — this is new — hardcore skaters. Talk about a social blender. This all happened on Bolm Road near Govalle Park where rural meets industrial meets new urban. At one point, I was certain that a tall man with a sculpted face was Zach Gilford, who played Matt Saracen on “Friday Night Lights.” Just as I approached him for a photograph, I veered away, realizing that, since we are re-watching the Austin-shot series each night, that couldn’t by Gilford. Way too tall.

NIGHTLIFE: Oh boy, we’re going to enjoy this. The Zilker Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Austin is a looker. Tall and long, it could manage any but the half dozen largest galas in town. It is easily reached from the hotel by a skywalk, from the new parking tower by elevators and, for those of us in the neighborhood, directly from the street via broad sidewalks. A pre-event space upstairs with a roofed deck can serve as a VIP area. The kitchen is inside the hotel, but there’s ample plating space attached to the big room. Cory Wilson, who managers the charity events there, told me during an demo reception that included false food trucks she already booked a couple dozen parties. Business groups are already snapping up the weekdays, too. This is a gamechanger.

TRANSIT: The joys of Brazos Street. Reaching four social events Friday night under the threat of continued flooding didn’t seem probable. One thing that made it a cakewalk was the city’s Great Street program. With its expansive north-south sidewalks and landscaping, Brazos Steet is becoming a pedestrian freeway at certain times of the day and night. It has already attracted a new grocery store, liquor store, cocktail bar, events venue, residences, offices and revived nightlife. The J.W. Marriott will join these attractions in early 2015. Parking? Expensive near East Sixth Street, but not near the Capitol. And with the promise of Brazos as the intervening footpath, that’s an alluring alternative.