Melanie Vaughan’s German Club Debutante Party In San Antonio


By Jake Gaines    Photography by Greg Harrison


A German Club debutante party, Evening of Chinese Splendor, honored Melanie Vaughan’s travels to different regions of China that have inspired her over the last two years. She traveled there as part of her operatic vocal training with voice instructor, Dr. Chai Wai Lee of Trinity University. She, with other vocal students, performed at Chinese universities in different cities and provinces in China.

As Melanie had immersed herself in Chinese culture, she was drawn to having a party theme that was very near and dear to her heart. During her travels to China, she grew as a person, and as a singer, and looks forward to returning in the future. Melanie wore a floor-length red dress based upon an authentic Chinese design with a modern, elegant flair. The gown, designed by Nicolas Vilalba, was wrapped with embroidered silk gold dragons imported from Hong Kong and had a traditional Chinese neckline embellished with red and gold crystals.


Melanie and her family’s vision for the occasion were brought to life by Billinda Wilkinson and India Rhodes of Wilkinson Rhodes, who created a Chinese ambiance  for the guests. Upon arrival at the Witte Museum, guests were greeted by a magnificent 12-foot long, hand-carved dragon, looming over the entrance guarded by two massive handmade gold Foo Dogs. Red Chinese lanterns dripped from the beams of the entrance as guests approached a 12-foot-high ice carving of a Chinese pagoda flanked on either side by Chinese Warriors, inspired by the Terracotta Army guarding Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum. Surrounding the ice Pagoda were holes drilled to hold shots of
Singapore Sling cocktails for the guests’ enjoyment, while the Lemon Grass Empress martinis were passed upon entry to the venue.

Inside, the venue was transformed to convey the feeling of a drawing-room in a Chinese Palace. Tables were draped with silk tablecloths and surrounded by ornate red chairs. Flowered fans framing red lacquer bars with Melanie’s name painted in Chinese lettering were among the carved dragons and perched atop custom-designed food stations that had curved gold tile roofs inspired by the palaces. Red and white Chinese dragons were also embossed onto the dance floor to add to the distinctive décor.

The honoree’s travels also inspired the food for the evening. Steamed lobster dumplings were served on bamboo trays, and poke bowls were filled with many culinary delights to choose from  such as Asian short ribs over noodles in a jar of smoke, sweet and sour baby back ribs, and spicy meatballs, with red chopsticks provided.  Chocolate and Mochi Xiao Long Bao were served for dessert with milkshakes of ginger, green tea and mango passed for the guests’ pleasure, all of which were created by Cassandra Fine Catering.



San Antonio Public Library Foundation’s Annual Catrina Ball

By Leanne Raesener Photography by Chris Cantoya and Kelly Jo Johnson

THE SETTING: San Antonio’s Central Library, located in the heart of downtown, was transformed into a vibrant night market, complete with gourmet street food cuisine and musical entertainment to raise funds for the San Antonio Public Library Foundation (SAPLF) and the Texana/Genealogy Department. This annual black-tie affair celebrates Dias de los Muertos and raises essential operating funds to sustain the SAPLF and the San Antonio Public Library system.

THE STYLE: Guests were welcomed into the fête by Neiman Marcus models, sculptures from artist Pompa Art, the musical stylings of Mojo Rimba, a student-led marimba group playing popular songs, and dance performances by the Adelitas. Guests were treated to a feast for the eyes and their palates as they encountered delicious cuisine, musical vignettes, stilt walkers, entertainers, and tequila sipping bars that were placed throughout the library for guests to discover as they explored the beautiful space.

The afterparty, held on the second floor of the Central Library, was a fabulous end to an evening of fun and frivolity as guests danced the night away around an incredible two-story Chihuly Fiesta Tower to the music of Henry Brun and the Latin Playerz Orchestra. The event’s top donors were treated to a Neiman Marcus and Veuve Clicquot lounge.

THE PURPOSE: Ruth Agather, Magdalena Gaona, and Mari Tamez chaired the event. This event honored Andi Rodriguez as La Catrina and Guillermo Nicolás as El Catrin. This year, proceeds were also raised to provide a generous gift of additional funding to support the Central Library’s Texana/Genealogy Department and transform the entire sixth floor of the Library into a world-class Texana Resource Center. The San Antonio Public Library Foundation’s mission is to strengthen the library in service to our community.




Southwest School of Art Gala Celebrates Mumbai By Moonlight Gala Theme

By Leanne Raesener Photography by Landers Photography

THE SETTING: The San Antonio rain cleared just in time to create a magical evening for the Southwest School of Art’s Mumbai by Moonlight Gala in the Garden presented by James Avery Artisan Jewelry. The evening’s scene was set with exotic décor and colorful displays to transport guests into a faraway land of beauty, entertainment, and exquisite culinary offerings.
In the McNutt Gardens under enormous tents, patrons were greeted by beautiful table settings featuring striking centerpieces created by Trinity Flowers and Events. With the perfect combination of lighting and sound provided by JSAV, patrons enjoyed each other’s company in the beautifully decorated gardens.
THE STYLE: The dinner, provided by Club Giraud, featured delectable curried lamb masala prepared flawlessly with basmati rice and lime-cilantro prawns. Konkan apricot cheesecake with toasted almonds and mint completed the meal. Guests in the Coates Chapel were treated to a wide variety of fine art by many noted artists and galleries, including original works by students in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree Program to enjoy and purchase, all benefiting the School.
Then, guests were treated to an outstanding Bharatanatyam performance by Kalalaya Indian Performing Arts and a dazzling Bollywood Fusion Dance from UTSA Sapna. After an evening of great food, fabulous friends, and top-notch entertainment, guests then moved to the Urschel Administrative Building for the Neiman Marcus Bollywood After Party. There they danced the night away to music by DJ Catwalk and delighted in a wide variety of treats presented by Neiman Marcus, the sponsor of the event’s after party since its inception in 2014.
THE PURPOSE: Courtney and Tobin Smith, Claire and Easton McNab, and Kate and Taylor Dawson co-chaired the event. The Southwest School of Art is the only independent college of art in Texas, and all proceeds from the gala benefit the operations of the organization.




Zoo Ball’s The Polar Express Rolls Into San Antonio

By Leanne Raesener           Photography by Greg Harrison

THE SETTING: Fittingly, Mother Nature provided a perfect winter cold snap for the San Antonio Zoo’s 37th Annual Zoobillation themed, The Polar Express. Dipping temperatures brought out more than 800 prominent patrons and philanthropic community leaders donning glamourous winter fashions. Brackenridge Park’s newest narrow-gauge engine was on display outside the reception tent to carry on the legacy of the San Antonio Zoo’s 1956 Eagle, and a phenomenal locomotive ice sculpture greeted the guests inside.

Before a delectable dinner, guests ambled through the zoo’s annual enchanting light displays to join a buzzing reception filled with a wealth of generously donated silent auction holiday gift opportunities. The new locomotive welcomed all into the main dining area in an outside foyer resplendent with silver and blue scenes creating a genuinely magical esplanade under a canopy of the best snow flurries one can expect in San Antonio.

THE STYLE: Inside a real star-filled night, laced silver accents were throughout the room and across all the tables. Custom passports offered guests access to their own imaginations on the express across time and into their childhoods.

The SA Zoo CEO Tim Morrow welcomed Jayme and William Russell, the event’s chairs, through the grand entrance. The Russells outlined the strides the zoo has made, where it stands, and where it is going―from the new exhibits, the Will Smith Zoo School, and Kiddie Park, to the new train engine. They also highlighted the zoo’s primary purpose, which is to educate, awe, entertain, and spotlight the exceptional leadership, business partnerships, and generous patrons building legacies for tomorrow.

Tony Parker, a Zoo board member, joined Morrow on stage to spur on dynamic live auction support with impromptu friendly banter. Guests supported the auction with seasonal generosity and all the energy of San Antonio’s very own Polar Express.

THE PURPOSE: The San Antonio Zoo, through its passion and expertise in animal care, conservation, and education, commits to inspiring its community to love, engage with, act for, and protect animals and the places they live. The zoo welcomes more than a million visitors each year and is open year-round.




Emily Alice Carrington, Jenna Belle Fuhrmann, Sophie Aliece Hollis and Molly Clara Strange Celebrated At German Club Debutante Party In San Antonio

By Jake Gaines    Photography by Jonathan Alonzo

With the theme of Journey to the Far East, the evening’s German Club debutante honorees were Emily Alice Carrington, Jenna Belle Fuhrmann, Sophie Aliece Hollis, and Molly Clara Strange.

The parents of the young ladies, Lisa and Philip Cage Carrington, Joy and Triple Fuhrmann III, Liecie and Nick Hollis, and Kelly and Mat Strange, hosted the black-tie event at The San Antonio Country Club.

The honorees wore their white debut gowns for the receiving line and then changed into gold gowns, designed especially for the ball. Locally-based dress designer Angelina Mata designed the evening’s wardrobe for Emily Carrington, Liecie Hollis and her daughter Sophie Hollis, and Joy Fuhrmann and her daughter Jenna Belle Fuhrmann.

The evening began with cocktails served to the elegant tunes of the pianist, Ditto. Then, performers from the San Antonio Lion Dancers Association led the debs and their escorts through the main hall and up the stairs to the ballroom where they did an authentic Lion Dance before the honorees were lead to the dance floor to kick off the dancing with the Dallas-based band, Emerald City.

The flowers and décor were created by the Trinity Flowers team, led by Danny Cuellar. Signature Ice-It created a grand ice sculpture with a monkey holding an umbrella that matched the Chinoiserie monkey and umbrella theme throughout the event, on the invitations (designed by Alex Strange, the sister of honoree Molly Strange), bar, and surroundings. In fact, the venue’s rolling video of Asian cities and nightlife was created by Jillian Fuhrmann, honoree Jenna Belle’s older sister. This was all complemented by the work of Wesley Dowdy and Amy Riggle, the party planning team of the San Antonio Country Club, along with event planner Robin Waters. The beautiful  space was illuminated by  lighting designer,Eric Holtz and Illusions and Peerless event rentals provided the furnishings To remember the magical evening for a long time to come, guests took snaps in the Mir Mir photo booth.



Charity Ball Association Celebrates Million Dollar Fundraising

By Leanne Raesener Photography by Jenna Beth Lyde

THE SETTING: The Charity Ball Association (CBA) of San Antonio’s 65th Chrysanthemum Ball was held at the Witte Museum’s Valero Great Hall and Mays Family Center, with a record-breaking $1 million of funds raised by the almost 600 supporters in attendance.

The black-tie clad and elegantly attired guests arrived on a 100-foot long red carpet through a floral fantasy arch. They were ushered in by formally attired stilt walkers and entertainers while listening to the amazing sounds of the Youth Orchestra San Antonio (YOSA).

THE STYLE: The décor, inspired by the CBA’s 65th anniversary commemorative scarf, was designed by award-winning artist Stuart Seal, and featured blue sapphires, gold chains, acanthus leaves, cut crystal, and colorful chrysanthemums, all centered by The Charity Ball Association of San Antonio’s 65th anniversary logo.

The floral design by Danny Cueller of Trinity Flowers was the perfect pièce-de-résistance with the ballroom’s beautifully adorned tables covered with oversized glass vases supporting a burst of colorful flowers that paid homage to that scarf’s colorful palette. A 15-foot tall ice sculpture by award-winning Buddy Rasmussen framed with opulent florals greeted guests as they entered The Mays Family Center.

As the night commenced, guests savored decadent hors d’oeuvres, including a beef carpaccio crostini, house-made salmon mousse topped with Bowfin caviar and fried Parmesan artichoke hearts before arriving at a three-course meal that included brown butter and seared thyme filet paired with a seared scallop atop a creamed Gruyere spinach, all by Rosemary’s Catering. Wine pairings were an elegant and perfect accompaniment to the gourmet meal.

THE PURPOSE: Sharon Seal, CBA vice president of decorations, created a special, unique, and memorable evening, while CBA President, Lynn Ziegler, orchestrated the festivities. The Association celebrated the founders of the Association. Gala attendees enjoyed a video of past CBA grant recipients, and a slideshow of historical photos, archived Rotogravure books, and newspaper clippings that delighted all, especially those who saw their beloved grandmothers, parents, relatives, and family friends through the decades.

Part of the fun included the moment Billy Cavender drew the winning Gold Ticket for the new Cadillac that was given away, and the Charity Ball Association graciously acknowledged decades of giving by Cavender Cadillac. The Charity Ball Association of San Antonio supports the children of Bexar County by distributing grants each year since 1954, now totaling more than $21 million. The organization’s tenet is Children Benefit Always.