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.



Gladys Knight Performs At The Tobin Center Anniversary Gala

By Leanne Raesener – Photography by Greg Harrison

THE SETTING: The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts recently celebrated its fifth anniversary with a gala honoring H-E-B, the 2019 Recipient of the Tobin Award, with Winnell Herron accepting the honor on H-E-B’s behalf. The headlining star of the evening was none other than legendary, seven-time Grammy® Award-winning, soulful R&B singer, Gladys Knight.

 THE STYLE:  Upon arrival, close to 500 VIP sponsors, patrons, underwriters, and guests were escorted into a cocktail hour, laden with unique and festive balloon designs created by Melony Rodwell, while the Avanti String Quartet (comprised of San Antonio Symphony members) played, and Ballet San Antonio ballerinas danced on pedestals. They also had a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and chat with the empress of soul herself, Gladys Knight.

The silent auction took place during the VIP cocktail hour featuring one of a kind treasures and experiences, including a guitar signed by Brian Wilson & Al Jardine of the Beach Boys, a Billy Idol signed Flying V electric guitar, an Andrea Bocelli Soundcheck and Concert Package, and a unique Tobin Center party in one of its secret clandestine spaces.

Then, the Children’s Choir of San Antonio, Chamber Music Institute, and Trumpet Fanfare by Youth Orchestras of S.A. (YOSA) summoned the guests to the Carlos Alvarez Theater, the Feik Family Rotunda, and the McLaughlin Family Rotunda for a sumptuous dinner crafted by Executive Chef Paul Goll of Tobin Catering. Soloists from Opera San Antonio announced the end of dinner and instructed the party to move into the H-E-B Performance Hall for the concert. Seating in the venue was cabaret-style for VIPs, and with gala and concert-only ticket buyers, it was a packed house with close to 1200 fans.

Following the concert, there were two after-parties: VIPs enjoyed a disco in the transformed Carlos Alvarez Theater, complete with a collector’s record wall of signed vinyls coupled with entertainment by Uptown Drive. The other after-party, in the McCombs Lobby, had the crowd up and on the dance floor with music from DJ Catwalk, who was suspended high on a station above the dance floor in the unique Founders’ Lounge.

 THE PURPOSE: The Tobin Center Board Chair is Samuel Dawson, and Dennert Ware is the current vice-chair. The gala’s honorary co-chairs were Alethea and Bruce Bugg, and Laura and Sam Dawson. The Tobin Center VIP Event Partners were Mr. and Mrs. James Browning, Mr. and Mrs. John Brozovich, Frost Bank, Rubicon Capital, LLC & Blue Duck Scooters, MUY! Companies and Shiner Beers. Nel Belt chaired the VIP gala committee that included Alethea Bugg, Laura Dawson, Heather de Rojas, Susan Franklin, Jean Lee, Susan Naylor, and Dr. Alice Viroslav. The evening was held to raise funds benefiting the Mission of The Tobin Center, a local non-profit arts organization that provides a world-class venue to promote a diverse range of cultural, educational, and artistic experiences that improve the quality of life in San Antonio.




Witte Museum’s 49th Annual Witte Game Dinner Breaks Records

By Leanne Raesener – Photography by Greg Harrison

THE SETTING:  The 49th Annual Witte Game Dinner, presented by Naylor Ranch, and held at the Susan Naylor Center, Mays Family Center, and Zachry Family Acequia Garden, is the Witte’s largest fundraiser. The lively crowd of over 1100 guests included notable multi-generational Texans and those filled with overflowing Texan pride. All eagerly participated in one-of-a-kind silent and live auctions and took delight in a country music concert with none other than the Josh Abbott Band. The evening kicked off with the 2nd Annual Texas Heritage Awards, honoring Mary West and Richard Traylor, and Valero. The awards honor supporters of the museum who are outstanding stewards of San Antonio and Texas and have values and a personal brand that aligns with the mission and vision of the Witte Museum.


THE STYLE:  This year’s theme, Branded by Time, celebrated the Witte’s extensive timeline narrative of Texas, from millions of years ago to today and honored those who have made an impact on the Witte’s past, present, and future.

Guests at the event also experienced a true Texas culinary experience provided by Rosemary’s Catering, which included Texas game stations with perfectly roasted and smoked meats, such as herb-roasted Veal and Lamb Racks to Texas BBQ beef ribs, all carved to order, a Texas Quail Showdown with chicken-fried quail and ancho-honey grilled quail, a Texas slider bar, a Hungers TexMex station with venison enchiladas, a Gordita station, a Texas Coastal Area with a seafood boil, blackened redfish, and a Paella station, and last but not least, an array of specialty desserts served in the South Texas Heritage Center. Bolner’s Fiesta Products served as the culinary sponsor.

THE PURPOSE:  The 49th Annual Witte Game Dinner ushered in an all-time fundraising record of over $1.2 million to support the museum’s operations, educational programs, and exhibitions. The event co-chairs, Kathy and Jeff Bolner and Anna and Robert Sigman, selected the theme, Branded By Time, for this year’s event.

Everyone joined together to enjoy the most cherished traditions of Texas, while also raising over $190,000 in field trip funding for students to visit the Witte Museum. All proceeds from the event raised essential funds that will also allow the museum to continue its mission to inspire people to shape the future of Texas through transformative and relevant experiences in nature, science, and culture.




Opening German Gala Presents Debutantes

By Leanne Raesener  –  Photography by Sam Pags

THE STYLE: The 139-year old San Antonio German Club recently hosted its annual Opening German gala in honor of the season’s debutantes. Held on a crisp, cool autumn evening at  Venue Villita in La Villita, the home of the Opening German for 50 years, the ball offered a glorious night of dining and dancing in celebration of the club’s group of young ladies being presented to the city’s society.

 THE SETTING: Resplendent in gorgeous white gowns, this year’s 26 debutantes (the most in the history of the club) sparkled as they were presented by their fathers, then led by their escorts. Following the presentation, the celebration continued as guests and debs alike danced late into the night to the various musical stylings of the Georgia Bridgewater Orchestra from Dallas. The gorgeous floral designs, comprised of fresh red and pink roses, filled the tabletop vases and fresh flower wall, all created by Danny Cuellar of Trinity Flowers. Also, tables of red and zebra print tablecloths added zest to the event’s decor.

Opening German guests arrived to a selection of passed hors d’oeuvres by Rosemary’s Catering, including South Texas chicken bites, pork belly Tostones, shrimp and grits, and steak frites. Then, a selection of eleven food areas were presented, including a Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail area around an handcarved ice sculpture, a station with meats carved to order, an oyster bar, a walking salad display area, and a fried quail area.

 THE PURPOSE:  Immersed in tradition, the organization was formed in 1880. Each year since its inception, the San Antonio German Club has presented its debutantes during San Antonio’s social season. Blake Stouffer is the German Club’s president, while David Aycock serves as the chairman.




Brackenridge Park Conservancy Celebrates With Gala Dinner

By Jake Gaines  –  Photography by Limelight Photography


THE SETTING: Community leaders, city officials and advocates in support of the revitalization of Brackenridge Park recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy near the historic low water crossing. Guests enjoyed a 3.5-mile train ride through the park, a sunset reception, and dinner under the stars while marveling at the historic San Antonio River and the crossing originally constructed in 1917 to connect both sides of the park.

Each year, the organization highlights different areas of the much-loved park. The park is home to dozens of historic buildings, bridges, walkways, and water features. This year’s event, staged at the historic low water crossing, supported operations and raised awareness of the infrastructure improvements needed in this area and throughout the park to bring it back to its glory days.

THE STYLE: The gathering honored Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, founder of the Central Park Conservancy, who played a key role in the creation of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy. Fondly known as Betsy Browning, a member of a long-time San Antonio family, she is the author of nine books, including the latest, Saving Central Park: A History and A Memoir. Currently, she is president of the Foundation for Landscape Studies in New York City. Special recognition was also given to the San Antonio Conservation Society in celebrating its 95th year. The Conservation Society led the way to form the Brackenridge Park Conservancy in collaboration with City of San Antonio leaders and park stakeholders and provided funds to hire the first executive director. 

THE PURPOSE:  The chairs for the event were Vivienne Bathie, Liecie Hollis and Robin Howard. Brackenridge Park is regarded by Charles A. Birnbaum, CEO and Founder of Washington D.C–based The Cultural Landscape Foundation, as one of the most culturally significant municipal parks in the United States. The rustic character of the park, situated just below the headwaters of the San Antonio River, remains intact, with tree-lined paths, picnic areas, playgrounds, athletic fields, a miniature railway and pieces of history including the San Antonio Water Works Pump House No. 1.  Brackenridge Park that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.




San Antonio Public Library Foundation Hosts Literary Luncheon

By Jake Gaines  –  Photography by Sam Pags


THE SETTING: The San Antonio Public Library Foundation recently hosted its 13th Annual Literary Luncheon. They welcomed nearly 300 supporters and book lovers to the McNay Art Museum to hear The New York Times best-selling author, Melanie Benjamin, in conversation with the special guest moderator Cornelia Guest about Benjamin’s book, The Swans of Fifth Avenue. During the event María-Eugenia Cossío-Ameduri, Kye Fox, and Alice Lynch were also honored for their decades-long service to, and in support of, the San Antonio Public Library Foundation.

THE STYLE: Benjamin and Guest, the daughter of legendary socialite C.Z. Guest, discussed the women and history that inspired her book, a historical novel detailing the relationship of Truman Capote and his bevy of elite Manhattan women he called his swans. Guest recounted how she knew Capote well since he was a frequent visitor at her family’s summer home. She shared vivid memories of time spent with Capote and her mother’s view of him before and after the publication of his thinly veiled short story in Esquire magazine, La Côte Basque, 1965, that divulged the most intimate and embarrassing secrets of his closest friends, the swans. The conversation was enlightening for the author as well.

Attendees sipped raspberry garnished champagne, enjoyed a refreshing light lunch and sweet treats by Rosemary’s Catering, and tried their luck at winning the raffle drawing “A day of luxury” provided by Neiman Marcus and Catrina Ball tickets provided by SAPLF. Booksellers Barnes & Noble sold out of two of the author’s titles, The Swans of Fifth Avenue and her newly released The Mistress of the Ritz.

THE PURPOSE: Liecie Hollis and Caroline O’Connor, the luncheon event’s co-chairs, are also SAPLF board members. Proceeds from the gathering raised critical funds for the Library Foundation in support of their mission to strengthen the library service to the community.