Music, food and fashion vie at 6 spirited Austin parties

The band plays on at Field of Dreams for Dream Come True Foundation

Field of Dreams for Dream Come True Foundation. We hit some minor road bumps on our way to two rewarding discoveries. At first, we couldn’t confirm the exact location of Sterling Events Center on the web. That’s because the spot next to the Sheraton in US 290 at Interstate 35 had not yet officially opened. No matter. When we arrived, we were surrounded by folks dressed in baseball gear. Didn’t get that memo. So we pretended to be team managers in sports coats with open collars. Once the event got going — and we had scarfed down some scrumptious mini-hamburgers and hot dogs — we beamed as our dear friend, Eugene Sepulveda, was honored with the Dream Achiever Award. The surprise? His resume. Even though we’ve known him for decades, we hadn’t kept up with all his achievements in business, charity, politics and education. The other big thing we learned during the extended ceremony: the Dream Come True Foundation, in its official words, “lifts individuals of exceptional potential through mentoring, education, financial assistance and access to community partnerships.” Judging from the night’s testimonials, it works!


A.J. Bingham and Monica Peraza at Authentic Mexico for the Hispanic Alliance

Authentic Mexico for the Hispanic Alliance. This has become one of those events where you expect to meet the real players. Of course, the Hispanic Alliance founder, businesswoman Monica Peraza, is in a category all by  herself. Then so is State Sen. Judith Zaffarini, recipient of the Trailblazer Award, as well as Long Center namesakes Joe and Teresa Lozano Long, emcee and former TV news anchor Ron Oliveira, former District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza, State Reps. Donna Howard and Celia Israel, and star chef Pati Jinich, host of “Pati’s Mexican Table.” Food and drink are always a rewarding part of the Authentic Mexico experience, and this year was no different. But music played an even bigger role, as Mariachi Las Coronelas and Austin Soundwaves Orchestra switched places back and forth with authentic tunes. It was a bit hot in the new Long Center events tent, but I didn’t even notice until other people pointed it out.


Dr Teshana Murray and Dr Sara Gowin at Ballet Austin Fete.

Fête and Fête-ish for Ballet Austin. Creativity has always been a hallmark of this signature Austin event. The two-part party’s theme usually is informed by a selection from Ballet Austin‘s season. So characters from “Alice in Wonderland” skittered through the upper lobby of the JW Marriott Austin, while guests grabbed drinks and swag from leafy holes. Even the floral arrangements and innovative dishes followed the theme. We landed at an exceptionally entertaining table and cheered the news, already in wide circulation, that the company would tour China and had received a $3 million endowment from Ernest and Sarah Butler to back new works. After a protracted live auction, the barriers magically vanished between the banquet and dance rooms. And so the Fête and Fête-ish — the young leaders’ sub-party — finally joined for some late-night frolic.

Vernon and Veneatra Reid at VH1 Save the Music at South Congress Hotel.

VH1 Save the Music Dinner at Central Standard. We figured that some music would figure into an event titled “Musically Mastered Food.” After we learned from VH1 Save the Music Foundation leaders about its programs to provide new instruments for thousands of schools in hundreds of districts, and heard from Central Standard chef Michael Paley on his own musical inspirations, KGSR’s Andy Langer ushered onstage the musical guest: Anthony Hamilton & the HamiltonesSo some 75 lucky guests heard an incredible set from this Grammy Award-winning R&B singer and his band, right there in the courtyard of the South Congress Hotel. It was an exclusive treat in the way that industry day parties at SXSW used to be. Paley’s food, served family style, was terrific, but I must admit I was distracted by the stunning stories told at our table of six, including one about comic Bill Cosby close-up that I won’t soon forget.

Jane Mollenkamp and Sharlene Strawbridge at Women’s Symphony League Fashion Show and Luncheon.

Women’s Symphony League Fashion Show and Luncheon. Thumbs up on all three: The speaker, the runway show and the crowd. All reflected an increasingly modern League. The celebrity was Longview-bred stylist, photographer and designer Brandon Maxwell, who had attended St. Edward’s University before crashing the gates of New York’s fashion world. Unrehearsed and dressed casually, Maxwell told fabulous stories about his eccentric childhood and 10-year rise to stardom, which includes a popular line he launched just a year ago. Funny, thoroughly authentic guy. The tightly disciplined runway show, run by proficient Sue Webber, revealed all sorts of Julian Gold looks to adapted classical music. The crowd? More men, more young women, more much-needed diversity. All going in the right direction, raising money for the Austin Symphony.

Danneel Harris Ackles, Jensen Ackles, Lana Carlson, Steve Carlson, Jared Padalecki and Genevieve Padalecki at the Imaginarium.

Imaginarium for the Thinkery. We couldn’t make this always charming event, but one of our accredited spies sent in this report: “The event raised funds for Thinkery‘s Open Door initiative, which provides free admission, school tour stipends and camp scholarships for thousands of Central Texas families each year. Event chairs Rachel Irvin and Amanda Dudley added a separate ticketed After Party this year and kept the fun and fundraising going well into the night with music from Austin’s AJ Vallejo. The gala dinner started with an on stage experiment — pouring liquid nitrogen into warm water which caused the water to go from a liquid state to a gas state – or steam. The (party’s) Glow theme reminds us of the importance of providing hands-on steam activities to help “glow” future problem solvers. Along with a silent auction, diamonds direct raffle and Kendra Scott mystery boxes, Thinkery partnered with Pop Austin to present “DayDream” an interactive light and sound art installation.”

Author: Michael Barnes

Michael Barnes writes about Austin's people, places, culture and history for the Austin American-Statesman and

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