A shift in the breeze at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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Doug Dempster, Susan Benz and Fritz Steiner at the Wildflower Gala.

It doesn’t take much to shift a culture ever so slightly.

For years, the Wildflower Gala at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center glided on a breeze of pleasant memories.

About the late first lady and her family. About the gorgeous and groundbreaking center that bears her name, devoted to sustainable gardening at every level. About the incredible minds and personalities gathered around the tables under the violet dusk at the center’s courtyard.


Doug Dempster, Susan Benz and Fritz Steiner at the Wildflower Gala.

It was an honor just to be included.

That much as not changed. The most recent gala, however, shifted a bit. Gone was the silent auction of art inspired by nature. It was replaced by an extended live auction, a standby for hundreds of other Austin galas. If this noisier strategy raises more money and excitement for this vital cause, all’s well.

As always, we heard from the generous and impassioned first family of Austin, this year represented by Luci Baines Johnson. (Close your eyes and alter the timbre and you can hear her father on the stump.) Honored this year was Maline McCalla, a dear friend to the first lady and a member of countless volunteer groups. Her acceptance speech proved wise and witty.

The weather, of course, remained magnificent. But that’s been a recurring blessing at this annual event. Only one guest could recall a rainout, when everybody scattered to indoor spaces. May it always be a Lady Bird night like this one.

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