After a day of chilly-will temperatures and rainy storms, the 29th Annual Mad Hatter’s Tea had a bright sun-shiny morning for its “Under the Tuscan Sun” on Thursday, April 27, at the Dallas Arboretum benefiting the Women’s Council of the Arboretum.
Unlike years before, the event started a half hour earlier at 10:30 with guests finding the Ginsburg Plaza roped off. Evidently organizers had hoped guests would flow away from Rosine Hall and the tented tables. Some heeded the suggestion, but the majority stayed clustered near the entry to watch the hat contestants wannabes hold their numbered cards up as they strolled the red carpet for the judges (Kori Green, Tara Green, Micki Rawlings, Niven Morgan, Lynae Fearing, Tracy Rathbun and Caroline Kraddick) who were seated on the elevated terrace in the shade. Judge Courtney Kerr didn’t sit because she didn’t want to wrinkle her outfit. Someone asked why she was wearing cherries in her hair. The person was corrected, “They’re tomatoes.” Oh.
Judge/designer Rachel Zoe was nowhere to be seen until the last moment. A coterie of lithe lassies popped out of a car with Starbucks in hand for Rachel, who had been sequestered away.
As for the guests’ interpretations of the day’s theme, it was obvious that Michael’s had been hit hard for sunflowers thanks to folks like Soni Pancretz. Needless to say, the results varied from subtle and beautiful to towering structures with wine bottle, plates, corks and even cars. Mary Tomas wore a Ray Conniff vinyl record with dolls and feathers … Proving that pink is always a standout were last year’s Mad Hatter’s Chair Jocelyn White, Donna Darling, Pebble McGehee and her mom Faye Briggs… Karen Lukin’s looked like someone had used her brown hair as a platter for their pasta, complete with meatballs and fork …Corks were the lightweight accessory of the day. Amanda Johnson‘s cork-brimmed sunhat stayed put, but poor Steve Kemble’s cork vest was shedding corks as he strolled the grounds looking like a 21st century Bacchus…Kunthear Mam-Douglas’ hat appeared to be an entire Tuscan village… On the other hand, Jordi Bostock opted for a simpler look with checkered-tablecloth table for two… Lorenda Wyant towered among the group thanks to her Leaning Tower of Pisa … On the shorter structure side, Rene Farren‘s topper was delicious with an upside-down cone of faux spumoni … Still there were others who tossed the theme idea and went with their own vision, like Barbara Daseke with bird in nest and Virginia Chandler Dykes in white fur.
Cathy Vieth all in purple arrived with her equally purple hat of feathers, butterflies and flowers by her side. As her car pulled up, her chapeau designer Shane Walker and his partner Billy Fulmer were there to help her plant it on her head. With the wind picking up, Cathy seemed to sway a bit thanks to the “head wind.” Shane told her not to worry — the Plaza was much calmer… at least wind-wise.
No sooner had Shane got Cathy on her way to the Plaza than Amber Griffin arrived in an Italian flag dress. Quickly, she took a seat on a bench as Shane and Billy erected the hat that had plates, silverware, wine bottles, grapes, corks, peppers, candles and a loaf of Italian bread. It looked good enough to eat. The structure appeared to weight more than Amber. As soon as she entered the Plaza, the oohs and applause could be heard outside at the driveway.
Evidently Amber’s Italian flag dress wasn’t a one-of-a-kind idea. Lynne Lowder wore a sleeveless version that she got on Ebay with a hat featuring her cellphone playing a video.
At 11:30 word was passed to head into Rosine Hall for the Jan Strimple-produced fashion show of Rachel Zoe’s clothes. Herding the hats and their underlings into the hall and their seats proved to be as challenging as Central Expressway at 5:30 p.m.
And then there was that issue of viewing the runway. Seems that some of the oversized hats may have been eye-catchers in the Plaza, but in the rows of chairs, they were eye-blocking. One gal was seen getting slapped around by the decorations of another guest’s hat, who kept turning her head to see others.
Others had the problem of trying to see around the army of photographers, who were out to capture moments.
Following presentations to Honorary Chair Amanda Hill and her mom Amy Warren, the fashion show got under way with Rachel checking each of the creations, while husband Rodger Berman videoed the show on his phone.
Next up was the live auction. Instead of relying on local media types handling the auctioneering duties, they had award-winning Wendy Lambert, who kicked things off with Amy Warren raising her paddles and eyebrows with a winning bid of $10,000 for a Tootsies shopping spree. Not to be outdone, daughter Amanda snapped up a cooking lesson for $8,500. UPDATE: The live auction results added up to $33,400, but organizers later reported, “The Live Auction amount raised was $27,000.”
The live auction was followed by the usual shout-out that tends to be more awkward than profitable. Alas, this point became evident when Wendy’s announced the goal was for $35,000. The take ended up being
$8,000 $26,000. But who knows? Wendy told the crowd that she would be available afterwards to accept donation from guests who might have been too shy to participate.
Finally, the time came for the judging results, with the following named winners:
- Molto Italiano (Judge Caroline Kraddick) — Joani White
- Most Elegant (Judge Kori Green) — Cynthia Smoot
- A Taste of Italy (Judges Lynae Fearing and Tracy Rathbun) — Carmen Surgent
- Bellissima Botanical (Judge Tara Green) — Terry Irby
- People’s Choice (Judge Micki Rawlings) — Katherine Phillips
- Fellini’s Follies (Judge Niven Morgan) — Chad Collom and Steve Kemble
- Most Outlandish (Judge Courtney Kerr) — Lynne Lowder
- Rachel’s Pick (Judge Rachel Zoe) — Amanda Warren
Rachel in making her presentation admitted,”I’ve had a pretty long career. In no part of my life have I ever experienced anything like this….I’m going back to L.A. and talking about this. I love Texas.”
As the ladies and guests headed to their tables to take in the beautiful day, it was learned that Venise Stuart would be chairing the 2018 Mad Hatter’s. Can’t wait to hear how Venise plans to stage the 30th anniversary of this fundraiser for A Woman’s Garden.