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Michael Barnes

Last look at five fervent Austin parties

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Recently, we hung out with two Texas sports legends, heard from Austin business givers, got a bit groovy at the Long Center, took in a fashion show for a worthy cause, and graded area education.

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Crystal Ford and Neftalí Partida at History-Making Texans Awards during Texas Independence Day Dinner for Texas History Museum Foundation. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

History-Making Texans Awards for State History Museum Foundation. It’s not every night that you share the room with Nolan Ryan and Earl Campbell. Yet the History-Making Awards ceremony routinely makes history each Texas Independence Day. The dominating pitcher and running back were in good company. We sat with deeply connected businesswoman Diana Zuniga while we heard the accolades and watched the videos for the two athletes whose career trajectories tracked closely the success of teams in Austin, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans. All the hoopla helped fill the coffers of the State History Museum Foundation, which provides a big chunk of change for the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

RELATED: Texas treasures from the Bryan Museum now in Austin.

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Ti Belete and Cat McCauley from KPMG at Austin Gives Luncheon. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Austin Gives Luncheon. We’ve watched jewelry-maker Kendra Scott grow her business from Day 1 and she’s always given back. Always. It was gratifying, then, to hear her explain this conscious strategy at a luncheon for Austin Gives, a project of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. For instance, all her stores — more than 50 of them already! I remember when the first one opened! — employ a community outreach leader. And we have some Austin Gives winners to report among charitable companies. Big Hearts: Round Rock Express. Charitable Champions: Hoar Construction. Bold Givers: Keller Williams Realty International. This event nicely complements the earlier Philanthropy Day Luncheon, hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. I’m sorry to say I missed that essential annual affair in February. Among the honorees on that day: Patsy Woods Martin and Jack MartinPete WinsteadAlamo Drafthouse and Taylor Thompson, a 17-year-old high school student who raised $85,000 to build a Habitat for Humanity home in Austin to honor his late mother.

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Olga Campos and Gigi Bryant at Peace Love Long Center. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Peace, Love, Long Center. I checked my closets. Groovy is clearly not my thing. For this Sixties-themed party at the Long Center, I pulled out a sports jacket covered in a black-and-navy oversized houndstooth pattern. When I purchased it at a resale shop decades ago, I called it my Dave Steakley jacket, so named for the always natty Zach Theatre director. To tell the truth, it barely registers in his style universe. Other guests — such as very Sargent Pepper Olga Campos and Kevin Benz — went all out. At the head of our table were super-patrons Marc and Carolyn Seriff, who head off to the Big Apple soon to perform as producers of the musical “Anastasia.” Meanwhile, I got to know some charming folks whose lives weave in and out of Austin’s creative economy.

RELATED: Which show won the most nominations at the Long Center’s Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards?

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Amy Lowrey and Eva Strasburger at Celebration of Life Luncheon. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Celebration of Life Luncheon for Seton Breast Care Center. Just slap me in between Mary Herr Tally and Carla McDonald and I’m good for a 150-minute charity luncheon. This silky affair attracts the top socials in town and almost every table at the JW Marriott Hotel was populated with philanthropic leaders eager to make the fight against breast cancer more manageable for Central Texans. This multi-faceted event for the spa-like Seton Breast Care Center starts with a lot of mingling, then some speakers, a brisk Neiman Marcus fashion show, then more speakers, videos and entertainers, all very compelling. In fact, Kendra Scott once again provided some of the most forceful arguments for giving, in this case to purchase a state-of-the-art mammography apparatus that one source told me normally goes for $300,000. The highlight of the lunch for me, however, was hearing about the current lives and concerns of the well-matched Tally and McDonald, who’ve got Zach Theatre and Austin Pets Alive events upcoming as well.

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Mary Jane Burson and Suzie Harriman at League of Women Voters Dinner. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

State of the City Dinner for the League of Women Voters. Nearly 100 years old, the League is a pretty restrained group of good-government types who, no matter their political affiliations, are collectively appalled by recent attempts to make voting more difficult rather than less so. Born out of the suffrage movement, this group knows what it means to be denied the vote in order to preserve an existing order. Yet among the high points of their annual dinner was a madcap auction run by light-hearted Mary Gordon Spence — who offered additional items from her storage — and a comic turn from author Sarah Bird, whose very presence proved an auction item. The most serious moments, however, came from Susan Dawson, a spellbinding speaker from the E3 Alliance, an advocacy group, who, in 20 minutes, broke down the successes and failures of the Austin area educational system. Answering a final question, she came down hard for school choice, but against vouchers.