American Red Cross Gala, Contentment Camping Preview, Austin Symphony Orchestra, Nature Tour Guide Victor Emanuel

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Gabriel Guillen and Raquel Lopez at American Red Cross Gala.
Gabriel Guillen and Raquel Lopez at American Red Cross Gala.

Gabriel Guillen and Raquel Lopez at American Red Cross Gala.

CHARITY: American Red Cross gets serious. Just a few years ago, the Central Texas chapter of the American Red Cross held its big annual benefit at a Japanese chain restaurant. Last week, it filled the bigger banquet hall at the Four Seasons Hotel. And look who showed up: Luci Baines Johnson, speaking like an old-time orator as she conferred the Lady Bird Johnson Award on Ann Showers Butler, her mother’s friend and collaborator on downtown trail around the lake, now named for Butler and her late husband, Mayor Roy Butler. At a nearby table were UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven, past UT presidents Peter Flawn and Bill Cunningham — who also served as Chancellor — Congressman Michael McCaul, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, Admiral Bobby Inman — the other Admiral in the room along with McRaven — and real estate empire builder Emily Moreland. IBM was tipped for Red Cross’s Public Partner Award and volunteer extraordinaire Mike Wadino won the Greg Coleman Tribute Award.

Famed nature tour guide Victor Emanuel. Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell / Statesman.

Famed nature tour guide Victor Emanuel. Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell / Statesman.

NATURE 1: Back to nature with fame tour guide Victor Emanuel. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “A few years ago, Victor Emanuel was walking in Stacy Park near his Travis Heights home. He guessed in advance that there would be frost on the grass of the baseball field above Blunn Creek. “I didn’t know that I’d be walking when the angle of the sun was perfect,” says the world-famed nature guide and bird lover. “The field was filled with jewels of blue, green, red and yellow. Most people walking by wouldn’t notice it. We notice things. That’s the great gift that birders have.” Houston-born Emanuel, 74, has been helping people notice things for a long time. His Austin-based company, Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, is among the largest of its kind in the world. His far-flung army of guides put people close to nature from Kazakhstan to Tanzania, but also closer to home in prime spots around Texas.” http://shar.es/1g91Rb

Monica Peraza and Amy Rudy at Contentment Camping Preview.

Monica Peraza and Amy Rudy at Contentment Camping Preview.

NATURE 2: What were upscale tents doing around fires in a Tarrytown backyard? We really didn’t know. Gracious and down-to-earth Amy Rudy had invited us to join her family on the generously-sized lawn behind a 1922 house they’ve owned for three years. She introduced us to Patricia Jensen, owner of Contentment Camping, and Kelly Ostendorf, the company’s Austin representative.  The women knew each other in Buffalo, N.Y. and, after years of teaching, Ostendorf joined her buddy in the biz. They’ve found Central Texans very open to the idea of rented tents that include basic comforts such as solid beds, chairs and tables. The company sets them up for you and they seem ideal for people attending the city’s mega-festivals. We plan to find out more about these little islands of contentment.

IMG_3400ARTS: Signs that Austin Symphony Orchestra’s social transformation is well underway: 1. Long lines for student discount tickets. 2. More people there for the Previn viola-and-cello concerto preview than for the reliably thrilling Elgar “Enigma Variations.” 3. More women than ever — front and center — in the ensemble. 4. Slick video testimonials before the concert, in the manner of Ballet Austin’s admired pre-show campaign. 5. Clear marketing for the orchestra‘s side ventures, like the Youth Leadership Council. 6. Two standing ovations for the triad of Dvorak, Previn and Elgar, well-deserved and enthusiastic rather than perfunctory.


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