As locals and tourists in shorts, T-shirts and sneakers walked by Belo Mansion on Saturday, October 7, something seemed a little amiss. Perhaps it was the sound of drums, but more likely it was the dragons.
At times there were two Chinese dragons vying with the valet parkers in the driveway for the arrival of black-tie guests. At other times it was an elongated dragon dancing and entertaining the already-settled guests looking down from the windows upstairs in the Pavilion. The dragons, the drums and the 350 guests were all there to celebrate the inaugural Jade Ball benefiting the Crow Collection of Asian Art.
Once past the check-in, the Mansion and hallways surrounding the ballroom had been turned in to hutongs filled with artist Danqing Coldwell, calligrapher Carle Shi, tea master Phillip Chen and fortune teller Iris Quachs.
Event Chair Robert Weatherly and Honorary Chair Lynn McBee were hustling through the crowd, fulfilling the demands of photographers.
Darryl Freling and Emily Eisenhauer Freling were reporting that they were past the newlywed-year marker… Following the fundraiser’s title, jade was indeed the color of the night — Linda Ivy’s jade necklace and matching earrings with jade-colored stole, Kristen Gibbins‘ earrings, Nikki Webb‘s necklace, Gay Donnell‘s and Angela Nash‘s jade-colored gowns, and Billy Martin Jr.‘s tie highlighted with deep-green leaves. Getting into the Asian ensemble category were Mimi Sterling in a gray kimono with fan, Lauren Embrey in a rose-red lace qipao, Trammell S. Crow in traditional Chinese formal black jacket and Koshi Dhingra in a red sari highlighted with sky-blue flower appliques.
Just as the place was going to bust with guests, the doors to the ballroom opened with a splendiferous array of tables surrounding a stage with a backdrop of bamboo topped with colorful lanterns.
While it took some time for the guests to take their places, there were no pre-sets. Instead of salads, they found charger plates, silverware, water and wine glasses and chopsticks, of course. Crow Collection Executive Director Amy Lewis Hofland got their attention plinging chimes. In describing the growth of the Asian community in North Texas, Amy told how when she had graduated from Plano High School, only 1% of the students were Asian Americans. Today the figure stands at 30%.
In the meantime, servers provided plates with three dumplings — pork with ginger soy, chicken with dragon chili and mushroom with sesame yuzu. Not wanting to seem unworldly, most guests proved their dexterity by using their chopsticks to devour the trio.
Instead of being immediately removed, the dumpling-less plates stayed put while beautifully attired Beijing Opera singer Lucy Xu sang “Drunken Beauty,” accompanied by the Dallas HuaYun Chinese Orchestra.
Eventually, the dumpling dishes were removed and water glasses were filled nonstop. A floor monitor walked between the table looking satisfied. Plates of Hong Kong style short ribs on purple and russet potato taro root mash and wok fired Yu Choy with sweet carrots slowly made their way to the tables. Most guests found themselves resorting to the silverware to cut into the short ribs and saw into the carrots.
Chair Robert and Honorary Chair Lynn were invited to the stage by Crow Collection Media Relations person Stacie Adams. Graciously they thanked the Crow family for expanding Dallas’ appreciation of the cultures on display and programs available at the museum. Between the eloquent acknowledgments by Robert and Lynn and the live auction was Lucy Xu in yet another fabulous costume to perform “Farewell My Concubine” after a slight delay, due to one of the HuaYun Orchestra members having to tune up.
While Lucy’s performance was beautiful, the action tableside was still spotty. At one table, all the entrée plates had been removed except for one. Even after dessert plates—with vanilla cake with matcha cream frosting, red plum drizzle and mooncake with red bean —had been placed, the empty entrée plate stayed as if anchored to the table. The guest in possession of the lone entrée plate told the other guests to proceed with their desserts. Despite his offer, no one lifted a fork until the situation was updated.
It was now 9:30 p.m. and Heritage Auctioneer Katherine Rigdon took the stage, searching the room for bids like a bird dog on the hunt. She claimed there was $2,500 hiding out there. At one point she hooded her eyes and looked to the far reaches of the room trying to discover a $45,000 bid. Oops! Make that a $4,500 bid. After a couple of packages were paddled in at low four-figure numbers, Chef Kent Rathbun arrived on stage, taking the mic and rallying the bids. His package of a dinner for 20 at the Crow Museum popped up the bidding to $10,000. Things were definitely perking up. Kent then continued his campaign, offering an event at the Rathbun homestead for a dinner, a cooking or whatever for ten. That surprise package hauled in a nifty $7,000 from Nick Even.
After the final bid was tallied, the crowd adjourned for more fortunes to be told and artwork to be created.
For more pictures, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.