Someone described it as a power crowd at the Klyde Warren Park donor dinner Wednesday, October 24. Actually it was a big, old block party for the newest kid on the block. With massive skyscrapers glittering on two sides, the Hunt Oil Building’s electronic sign reading “Welcome to the Neighborhood, Klyde Warren Park” and a partial moon peeking overhead, it couldn’t have been better.
As a result of blocking off streets for the dinner for the park connecting the CBD area with Uptown, an overly crammed traffic jam made Dallas look like a colossal parking lot. At some intersections, three policemen turned blue blowing whistles and waving their arms like West Texas windmills.
But once passed the clogged streets, the lucky guests found a sanctuary of beauty and calm. Alas, for this grand event you literally couldn’t buy a ticket. So how did folks get in? Well, it really helped if you had contributed substantially to the park, or were best buds with a big buck donor. Say, if you had purchased a lawn of sod like Scott Ginsburg or written a hefty check like Klyde Warren‘s pop, Kelcy, you could be part of the crowd.
There was a rumor that the event was a ripe opportunity for some smooth-talking party crashers [and Dallas does have them, you know] to schmooze their way into the 5.2-acre open park over Woodall Rodger Freeway. Yes, there was the ritual check-in, but old pro crashers know how to slide by that. Whether they arrived via valet or walked on up to the entry, they could just blend in with the crowd entering the area and chat it up, pretending to be one of the bigwigs’ guests. Then they were free to stroll the grounds that were divided into two sections: the cocktail reception with bars, high-top-tables and the smell of freshly laid mulch on the west side of the park, and the seated dining area with rows of white banquettes, brown wooden folding chairs and rectangular tables covered in multi-colored tableclothes extending from the stage.
During the cocktail reception the uninvited types might have had the chance to chat it up in perfect weather with the likes of Perots (Ross and Margot, Ross Jr. and Sarah in tight-fitting black leather slacks) and McDermotts (100-year old Margaret in her wheelchair and daughter Mary).
Other notable sights included Highland Park Mayor Joel Williams III dropping to one knee bowing his head to State Sen. Florence Shapiro in front of the Children’s Park. He later said, “This [the Klyde Warren Park] is the neatest thing I’ve seen built in Dallas!” .. Ebby Halliday being chauffeured around the park in a golf cart with Randall Graham trotting alongside like Secret Service. . . Shirley Miller stopping her electric scooter to talk with Myrna and Bob Schlegel. . . Ray Washburne, who had attended the presidential debates and was “feeling confident”. . . KERA’s Mary Anne Alhadef revealing that thanks to Lyda Hill‘s $1M gift, the station was able to hire Rick Holter as VP of news.
Despite the admonition to leave the heels at home, some gals like Grand Opening Event Committee Chair Sheila Grant, Chase’s Elaine Agather and emcee/KTVT-CH. 11’s Tracy Kornet could not be separated from their high-stepping ways. The gents, on the other hand, nailed the “park casual” with no problem. The most dressed-up fella was Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation Chairman Jody Grant in coat and tie. The majority of the chaps wore the upper crust’s interpretation of Dallas casual attire — blazers, open shirts and slacks or jeans. Why not? This was a park, not a deb ball. Others making the rounds were Lucy Billingsley, Jeremy Strick, Tom Dunning, Ken Schnitzer, Diana and Sam Self, Brian Bolke, Faisal Halum, Janis and Roy Coffee and Laura and Tom Leppert.
When the call to dinner took place, the smart crasher would have just lingered until all had taken their seats and then slipped into one of the few empties toward the back for a country-style supper including huge white bowls and platters of boneless fried chicken, biscuits, macaroni and beans.
But chances are there were no crashers and who cared because everything was moving along quite swimmingly.
Sure, the schedule was running just 20 minutes late, but the brief formalities of welcomes and introductions from the stage got things back on track. Honorary Chairman Owen Wilson kept his remarks short and especially sweet when he graciously presented white roses to Sheila with his mother Laura Wilson proudly watching.
Jody briefly advised the fellows in the audience that he had learned a thing or two about fundraising — “For you guys out there, turn the fundraising over to the women.” He claimed all
the Mr. Bigs would call Sheila back, but not him. He continued reporting that “The donors are our heroes. . . This is the capstone of everything I’ve done in my life. . . We reached for the moon, and now the moon shines on Klyde Warren Park.”
That part of the program ran so smoothly that the Dallas Symphony Orchestra performance under the direction of Rei Hotada started earlier than the 8:45 scheduled start time.
For the non-KERA viewer or the person who’s never watched America’s Got Talent, they may have dismissed the announcement
that Jackie Evancho would perform with the DSO. They may have even kept talking once the magnificent soprano voice was heard singing “When You Wish Upon A Star.” But then silence swept over the park. Looking up at the screen, it was apparent that the voice was coming from a diminutive girl barely 12 years old.
Guests like Bobby Lyle, Lottye Brodsky, Diane and Hal Brierley, Lee Cullum, Roger Horchow, Caren Prothro and Nancy Dedman were mesmerized by the little blonde in the Cinderella blue ball gown. Her voice rose above the downtown traffic and briefly allowed the problems of the day to take a break. It was only in between songs that a schoolgirl giggle would be heard from the youngster.
Yes, it all came together that Wednesday with a perfect thank-you for The Klyde’s donors. Even the bickering Museum Tower and Nasher Sculpture Center seemed to call a truce for the perfection of an angelic child’s voice, the clear evening’s weather with the moon hovering overhead and the sanctity of the park. Just as Jackie sang, it was indeed an “enchanted evening.”