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Michael Barnes

Cruise through 3 parties that perked up Austin’s spring season

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Why do I always have 100 to 150 good ideas for newspaper articles in the hopper? Because I go out and meet interesting Austinites and they tell me their stories. Those stories don’t usually appear in the short, timely social posts like this one, but they almost always land eventually.

Alice in the Afternoon for Ballet Austin Guild

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Cassandra King Polidori and Taylor Calvin an Afternoon in Wonderland for Ballet Austin Guild. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Cutest party ever: To celebrate the upcoming Ballet Austin show, “Alice in Wonderland,” the Ballet Austin Guild staged a costumed tea party for several hundred guests at the Ella Hotel. For An Afternoon in Wonderland, selected youths dressed up as characters from the beloved story. Most guests simply wore their best spring attire, including an array of elaborate hats.

Every table inside the mid-sized hotel banquet room looked like a shrine to the British institution of high tea. What a stroke of hosting genius to include the kids, too, not so many that it became about them, but just enough to remind us that, in fact, it is about them. Don’t miss “Alice,” which opens at the Long Center on May 12.

Women of Power for Austin Way

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Phil Wendler and Liz Brown at Women of Power Dinner for Austin Way magazine. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Nina Seely has brokered some kind of secret deal with the weather gods. Not only was the evening exquisite for the Umlauf Garden Party — which I nevertheless missed this year — but also a few days later for Austin Way magazine’s third Women of Power dinner — which I made. Both were held under dusky skies at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum.

Everybody was raving about cover girl Brooklyn Decker, saying how the model, actress and wife of tennis great Andy Roddick, was so real, so down-to-earth. Well, we’ve known that about her for quite a while. We’ve also spent significant time with four of the five Women of Power — Jennifer Ransom Rice, Suzanne Deal Booth, Annie Burridge and Mela Sarajane Dailey — all hail from the arts. The fifth, a literary backer, Maya Payne Smart, is realively new to me. Profile?

Hope Awards for iACT

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Nahid and Ali Khataw at Hope Awards for iACT. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Want to feel lucky that you live in Austin? Listen to the stories of refugees. We heard several unforgettable ones at the Hope Awards for iACT, an interfaith group that last year served more than 1,000 of the 1,700 new refugees in our city.

At the Bullock Texas State History Museum, we were impressed with fifth-grader Ali Saleh, whose family is from Somalia, but who fled to Saudi Arabia, then Syria, then Turkey, then the United States. He introduced running guru and humanitarian Gilbert Tuhabonye who shared his own harrowing refugee memories from Burundi.

Receiving Hope Awards were the Austin school district, its refugee coordinator and three schools: Doss Elementary, Murchison Middle and International High. Also, the Bullock for its annual World Refugee Day, the Glimmer of Hope Foundation AustinSt. John’s United Methodist Church and student volunteer Mehraz Rahman.

In a few simple words, Issa Noheli, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, thanked Austin — and the American-Statesman’s Season for Caring program — for his new leg and the power of locomotion.

Can’t get more gripping than that.