2017 La Fiesta De Las Seis Banderas Team Handed Out A Whopping $462,750 To 15 Park Cities Non-Profits

Rebecca Gregory and Nancy Monning

As the sun was slowly switching place with a perfect full moon on Thursday, September 7, the North Texas Food Bank’s Harvest underwriters were gathering at Mud Hen to celebrate the upcoming Friday, September 15 fundraiser. Across town in Highland Park Village’s Mockingbird Room, there were more happy faces. The occasion was the check distribution of 2017 La Fiesta Des Las Seis Banderas checks. Needless to say, when it comes to doling out the dough, the crowd is polished shoulder to shoulder.

Euan Blackman and Anne Besser

The biggest smiles were on the faces of La Fiesta Co-Chairs Rebecca Gregory and Nancy Monning along with Gala Co-Chairs Anne Besser and Michelle Johnson and Las Fiesta Board President Mary Hubbard. There was good reason. The take for the Saturday, June 10 black-tie fundraiser was $462,750. Just who says fundraising dries up in the summer?

On hand to accept checks and provide big old smiles were HPISD Superintendent Tom Trigg and wife Julie Trigg, The Family Place’s Paige Flink and Habitat for Humanity’s Euan Blackman.

Mary Hubbard, Michelle Johnson, Amy Hughes and Paige Flink

Tom Trigg, Kelly Walker and Jim Hitzelberger

The check presentation included:

  • Dallas Heritage Village — $5,000
  • Moody Family YMCA — $3,500
  • CARE (Chemical Awareness Resources and Education) — $12,640
  • Connecting Point of Park Cities — $19,500
  • The Elisa Project — $18,500
  • The Family Place — $10,000
  • Friends of the University Park Public Library — $30,500
  • HP Arts — $60,000
  • HPHS Community Service Council — $8,000
  • HPHS Habitat for Humanity Campus Center — $10,000
  • HPHS Science Festival — $1,600
  • HPHS Counseling Department and Student Council — $3,000
  • Highland Park Literary Festival — $26,000
  • HPHS Student Emergency Fund — $4,000
  • Highland Park Education Foundation — $250,510

More good news included the fact that Anne will cho-chair 2018 La Fiesta with her buddy Elizabeth Gambrell for the fundraiser that return to the Hilton Anatole for a summer sojourn.

2017 La Fiesta De Las Seis Banderas Came Off Flawlessly Despite Some Behind-The-Scenes Hiccups

There was the most glorious, huge orange sphere hovering over North Texas on Saturday, June 10. After days of drizzle, lighting and thunder, the skies were pristine. And this was summer!

Over at The Fairmont Dallas, it was equally perfect for the 31st  Annual La Fiesta de Las Seis Banderas … except for a needle and thread situation and too many toasts.

Rebecca Gregory and Nancy Monning

But first the backstory. Overseeing the months of La Fiesta preparations were Rebecca Gregory and Nancy Monning. Among the committee heads were the Gala Co-Chairs Anne Besser and Michelle Johnson. Those four were known for running a tight ship and still maintaining a smile and cool composure. Each year one of the six flags that had been part of Texas history was selected as the theme. This year it was France, and the ladies were delighted with the theme “La Fete Royal.” They were inspired by the 2017 beneficiaries (C.A.R.E., Connecting Points of Park Cities, The Elisa Project, The Family Place, Friends of University Park Library, Highland Park Education Foundation, Highland Park Literary Festival, HP Arts, HPHS Community Service Council, HPHS Counseling Department and Student Council, HPHS Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter, HPHS Science Festival, HPHS Student Emergency Fund, HPHS Youth and Government/Moody Family YMCA and Park Cities Heritage House at Dallas Heritage Village) to raise the funds.

Anne Besser and Michelle Johnson

But hiccups happen even to the best.

The first one was a real hit. The Anatole had to pull out from holding the event due to a convention or something. Anne and Michelle put out calls and locked down The Fairmont. The smiles said it turned out to work with the French theme, since The Fairmont was French-owned.

But Anne, who will be overall co-chair with Elizabeth Gambrell for 2018, reported that not only would they be returning to the Anatole, but the Anatole team came through this year with additional staging without a charge or hesitation.  

As for the relocation, it required some adjustments. The tried-and-true, 17,967-square-foot Fairmont Regency Ballroom just didn’t have as much space as the 30,360-square-foot Anatole’s Chantilly Ballroom. So sacrifices had to be made. The number one was the dance floor, which meant no post-presentation dance for the couples. Another issue was accommodating all who wanted to attend. The tables of black-tie guests were downright cozy.

But it was all coming together. After all, it was the first time that the Duchesses, who had just finished their freshman year in college, were able to see former high school classmate. It was like a black-tie class reunion.

However, the mammoth group pictures that were to be taken in the ballroom as parents and friends cocktailed in the adjoining lobby ran into a bump in the road. Photographer James French and his team were already with cameras in hand. The ladder was set dead center at the end of the runway. The idea of photographing 40 Duchesses in ball gowns and their escorts was a daunting challenge. But James and his folks were old hands at this situation.

2017 Duchesses and escorts waiting for the final four

However, it seemed that not all the Duchesses and escorts realized this wasn’t a casual selfie. There was a schedule to be kept. The escort group photo was delayed by five minutes due to some MIA escorts. Next, the group photo of all 40 Duchesses and their 40 escorts was on the list. Only when the headcount took place, four Duchesses were missing. It seems they were “being sewn into their gowns.” Five minutes passed, then 10. The couples that had stood so erect for the photo setup were now seated on the stage. The clock kept ticking, and still the foursome was missing. Evidently one designer was responsible for all four dresses. When James was asked if they should go ahead and shoot the photo without the four, the presentation photo vet knew just the right answer: “That’s not my call.”

Napkin with honey bee ornament

Still they waited. Finally, just minutes before the ballroom doors opened, the tardy Duchesses arrived to applause by the 76.

Quickly, the group photo and the Duchesses’-only photo were taken. James removed the ladder and just in time, as the doors to the ballroom opened and the chimes called all 900 guests to their seats, where they discovered elegant place settings with napkins tied in bows and topped off with French symbolic honey bee ornaments.

Eliza Parker, Jackson Parker and Gwen and Doug Parker

Rick and Allison Kraft and Angela and Brad Cheves

Jack Gosnell and Ellison Gosnell

Around the room were the Parker clan (Gwen and Doug Parker with their kids Eliza Parker and Jackson Parker) to see son Luke Parker escorting Lillian Cockerell, Angela and Brad Cheves were on hand for son/escort Conner Cheves, who was escorting Duchess Sarah Unkefer, Leslie and Jack Gosnell were front-rowing it for daughter/Duchess Ellison Gosnell. Was it really that long ago that Jack had been the escort pick of the debutante crowd?

Rock Le Minuette

Rock Le Minuette

The presentation started off with the escorts parading from the back of the ballroom via the runway to their places on the stage. Then a couple arrived on stage dressed in 18th century French attire and started performing “Rock Le Minuette,” starting with an elegant Baroque  with the escorts in the background. Suddenly, the mood changed with the male assisting the young woman out of her billowing skirt revealing long legs encased in fishnet stockings. The tempo picked up and so did the couple as the gent picked her up on his shoulder and whirled around. Still the escorts stood solemnly. 

2017 La Fiesta De Las Seis Banderas escorts

After a brief welcome by Rebecca and Nancy, the escorts (Nick Alexander, Paxton Baird, Grayson Borrego, Henry  Bould, Watson Brown, Christopher Buell Jr., Harrison Buford, Ty Burke Jr., William Caldwell, Kevin Cassidy, Conner Cheves, JD Cochran, Cole Ellis, Robert Farrow, Vale Fitzpatrick IV, Stanton Geyer, Thomas Glieber, Chase Govett, Garrett Hall, Bobby Hrncir, Cade Kimzey, William Kraft V, Parker Lacour, Mitchell Laughlin, Spencer Lorio, Jack Martin III, Hoyt Matise, Charles Mencke III, Wade Nicolas III, Charlie O’Brien, Austin Overton, Luke Parker, Adam Rathjen, Turner Rejebian, Barton Showalter, Benjamin Smith, Zach Snelling, Sam Stewart, Matthew Vandermeer and Hunt Wood Jr.) were individually introduced and exited. Then the formal presentation took place, with eight Duchesses being introduced on their fathers’ arm. As each of the 40 Duchesses (Emily Anwar, Clara Beecherl, Elizabeth Bradshaw, Kate Brayshaw, Laura Brayshaw, Anna Buford, Jeanne Ann Bullington, Helena Burns, Ellie Bush, Keaton Calhoun, Emily Carvell, Lillian Cockerell, Annie Combs, Elizabeth Cooper, Katie Dalton, Elizabeth DeBeer, Fields Dunston, Maddie Fehlman, Ellison Gosnell, Claire Green, Kristen Haggerty, Elizabeth Hubbard, Shanley Huckabee, Savanna Jones, Hannah Jurgensmeyer, Kendall Klingaman, Lane McCormick, Alexandra McGeoch, Caroline McGeoch, Dorothy Meachum, Clare Obenchain, Caroline Robertson, Avery Roosien, Peyton Schlachter, Madison Stuart, Madison Tedford, Madeline Toole, Sarah Unkefer, Emily Weisfeld and Erica Yaguchi) walked the runway, emcee Al Raya described her duchy.

2017 La Fiesta De Las Seis Banderas Duchesses

It came off without a hitch on stage.

Jeanne Anne Bullington and Michael Bullington

Elizabeth DeBeer and Bob DeBeer

Claire Green and Arthur Green

Sam Dalton and Katie Dalton

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite the same in the audience. During the early part of the presentation, the guests were quiet to hear the narration and to watch the deep bows. However, by the fourth round of eight couples, some adults had been fueled by trips to the bar, resulting in their returning to their tables and sounding oblivious that there were still Duchesses being announced. A couple of gals were feeling no pain as they greeted friends at a nearby table loud enough that the announcer couldn’t be heard.

2017 La Fiesta De Las Seis Banderas Duchesses and escorts

But the Duchesses and escorts soldiered on, concluding with all 80 on stage for a final bravo. They then joined their families and friends for a seated dinner, followed by dancing and a “late-night party” in the International Ballroom.

However, some of the honorees didn’t quite make it to the International Ballroom. It seems that the day’s activities may have gotten the best of one or two of them. It surely couldn’t have been due to imbibing, though, since organizers had stated in the program, “It is unlawful to serve alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of twenty-one. Valid identification will be required.”

For more than 50 photos of the Duchesses and guests, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

La Fiesta De Las Seis Banderas Gala Co-Chair Anne Besser Offers Some Helpful Hints For This Weekend’s Fundraising Festivities

Anne Besser (File photo)

Just as Heloise provides household hints, so La Fiesta De Las Seis Banderas Gala Co-Chair Anne Besser has a suggestion or two for this weekend’s La Fiesta De Las Seis Banderas comings and goings.

Since the Friday night event is taking place in a very cool residential area and Saturday’s gala is at The Fairmont, Anne is recommending the following:

  • Uber/Lyft
  • Have a friend drop you and your buds off
  • Use the buddy system and carpool
  • Despite a slight chance of Friday night having a touch of drizzle, don’t worry. The home is big enough to handle the guests inside.
  • Saturday night, park at the Baptist Church multi-level parking lot
  • Saturday night, get yourself a room at The Fairmont and slumber-party it. Think room service for Sunday morning breakfast. No, make that late morning brunch.

This annual summer fundraiser is showy, fun and family-oriented.

With Pumpkins And Lessons From Mom, Ashlee Kleinert Provided Theta’s Heart To Heart Luncheon Guests With Food For Thought

In the world of North Texas fundraising, experts worried their brows about the days between Wednesday, October 26 and Saturday, October 29. It was going to be a slam-bang period and it started with those kite flying Dallas Kappa Alpha Theta alumnae at Brook Hollow.

Becky Bright

Becky Bright

Mary Mencke and Kristi Hoyl

Mary Mencke and Kristi Hoyl

Robin Bagwell and Sarah Rathjen

Robin Bagwell and Sarah Rathjen

Beth Thoele

Beth Thoele

The ladies including Becky Bright, Mary Mencke, Kathy Vassallo, Susan Gordon, Sarah Rathjen, Beth Thoele, Robin Bagwell and Kristi Hoyl discovered that in addition to lunching on Brook Hollow’s fav pecan crusted chicken, they were also going to have an art class courtesy of keynote speaker/Theta Ashlee Kleinert.

Kathy Vassallo, Susan Gordon and Ashlee Kleinert

Kathy Vassallo, Susan Gordon and Ashlee Kleinert

Muffin Lemak and DeeDee Lee

Muffin Lemak and DeeDee Lee

Carol Goglia and Jane Pierce

Carol Goglia and Jane Pierce

Arriving with a tote filled with canvases, Ashlee was one of the late arrivals. Earlier DeeDee Lee explained why her recent skin cancer surgery on her wrist had prevented her from wearing her signature charm bracelet. She also revealed that she was celebrating her 31st wedding anniversary that day with husband Jim LeeMuffin Lemak’s eyes looked bright and clear after a “stint” with shines in the eye. But the luncheon wasn’t for fashion notes and catching up… And the fundraiser wasn’t limited to Thetas. Kappa Kappa Gamma alumna Carol Goglia tagged along with her Theta mom Jane Pierce.

Luncheon Chair Anne Besser and Theta Alumnae President Maury Cunningham had crafted their program perfectly blending KAT’s beneficiary Dallas CASA with the day’s program.

Anne Besser and Maury Cunningham

Anne Besser and Maury Cunningham

Kathleen LaValle

Kathleen LaValle

After Dallas CASA’s Kathleen LaValle told of the need for funds and volunteers and thanked the sorority for its support, Ashlee displayed a couple of her canvases featuring paintings of pumpkins on easels on stage. She then instructed guests that thanks to sheets of paper and markers, they were to draw pumpkins. She also added that the markers would find after life at Dallas CASA.

As the guests created pumpkins, Ashlee told a story from years ago when she was a young mother living in Tulsa with husband Chris Kleinert. Being a first-time mom, she was in need of sleep, pampering and having her mother take over the infant for a break.

Nancy Ann Hunt

Nancy Ann Hunt

Barbara Starz Nathan

Barbara Starz Nathan

Upon returning to Dallas for R&R, she woke up to find her mom (Nancy Ann Hunt) gone for a meeting. But while Ashlee missed out on the pampering, she soon learned about “The Art of Giving.” It seems that Nancy Ann had left her tired daughter and granddaughter for a meeting at the Austin Street Shelter, where she learned a tidbit.

Upon returning home, Nancy Ann told Ashlee to get in the car, so they could buy headsets. Hmm. This development raised some eyebrows in the Brook Hollow ballroom. Strange POA.

But Ashlee explained that Nancy Ann had learning in the meeting that many of the Austin Street clients suffered from schizophrenia and heard voices. Experts had found that “hearing voices” could be overshadowed by other noise…like those coming via a headset.

This experience provided Ashlee with an epiphany that introduced Ashlee to giving. Over the years, Ashlee and Chris created Ruthie’s Food Trucks, Executives in Action and spearheaded countless fundraising efforts within North Texas.

She then told how one act of giving can spread and gave an example of the Akola Project that she’s heading up. It started with Brittany Underwood’s small step years ago when she was a SMU student and went to Uganda. There she saw the poor conditions and organized women to make jewelry. It was so successful that she arranged to have 100 women in need to also join the Akola effort creating jewelry. This grassroots efforts came to the attention of Neiman Marcus, who included the line in the specialty store’s merchandise. Because of Brittany’s “small step,” women have been employed, schools have been improve and healthier conditions have been provided for those in Uganda.

After Ashlee concluded her talk, guests displayed their masterpieces and Luncheon Chair Anne took on the role of live auctioneer.

Seems Ashlee had offered the Ruthie’s food truck to be put up for bid for fundraising. The package included the truck providing meals for 50 people. The value was $1,000. Goodness! Maybe Anne should go into the auction business. Within a matter of a couple of minutes, she had the bidding up to $1,500. With a nod from the Ashlee and her team, Anne was able to offer the package twice for $1,600 each.