While the British may boast of the Royal Ascot’s stiff-upper-lip finery and class, 2019 Sweetheart Ball Chairman Lisa Troutt transformed Brook Hollow Golf Club into an homage to the Sport of Kings benefiting the cardiology research and programs at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas on Saturday, April 6.
It made such perfect sense. Lisa’s husband, Kenny Troutt, owns Kentucky’s WinStar Farm and its 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, as well as other thoroughbred horses that have won major races.
For Lisa, the Sweetheart Ball was an opportunity to showcase the elegant and beautiful world of horse racing, and to share her family’s pride in their accomplishments. Together with Kenny, their children (Grant Troutt, Savannah Troutt and Preston Troutt) and her parents (Martha and Gerald Copeland), Lisa made the evening a very personal one by selecting and overseeing the installation of artwork, trophies and other mementos from the Troutts’ various properties.
From the moment Ball guests left their own “horsepower” with the valet parkers, they were directed down a lattice walkway to a room created especially for the official photographs. In the center of a wall of white roses, peonies and orchids was a grand logo created for the night by Lisa and Belle Invito using the entwined “S” and “B,” topped with a racing horse in a crown. The crest would be used throughout the evening as a huge emblem on the dance floor and even in smaller forms on the wallpaper.
Following the official photograph, guests entered what had been the club’s Oak Room for the cocktail reception. It was now befitting the exalted status of the Troutts’ champion thoroughbred with the Triple Crown trophy itself on display, backed by a large portrait of Justify that had been painted by one of Kenny’s former employees at Exel Communications. The room also was graced by a sleek gold sculpture of the 13th Triple Crown winner, as well as individual portraits of Justify’s predecessors: Sir Barton (who won the Triple Crown in 1919), Omaha (1935), Count Fleet (1943), and so on.
Reflecting on his love of the sport, Kenny said he’d been interested in horse racing since growing up in Illinois. Once, he recalled, he even hitchhiked from Carbondale, Illinois, to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. Winning the grand prize with Justify was “a lot of fun,” he said, adding with a smile, “The fun was in making money.”
Guests soon discovered that the windows overlooking the club’s golf course had been replaced with life-size scenes of horses grazing on rolling lush pastures that were bordered by white fences. Brook Hollow’s Charles Redin recalled how Lisa, upon seeing the pastoral scenes, immediately recognized them. It seems that only the Troutts’ horse breeding and racing farm near Versailles, Kentucky, and a couple of others, still sport white fences.
While a pianist played New Orleans-style jazz, guests greeted, and posed for photographs with, Lisa and Kenny in front of the gold sculpture of Justify. Two by two they stepped forward: Heather and Ray Washburne, JoAnne and Tony Roosevelt, Lynne and Roy Sheldon, Linda and Bill Custard, Lisa and Clay Cooley, Pat and Charles McEvoy, Annette Simmons and Jerry Fronterhouse, Janie and Cappy McGarr, Kelli and Jerry Ford, Lana and Barry Andrews, Tavia and Clark Hunt, Margo and Jim Keyes, Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones and Nancy and Jeremy Halbreich among them.
During the reception the talk was of recent jaunts — Claire and Dwight Emanuelson were just back from a business trip to Kapalua — and of growing families (Jacquelin Sewell and her husband William Atkinson were expecting a new arrival on July 4th). There was also talk of those who had to miss the Ball — Lee Ann and Alan White, for example, were at basketball’s Final Four in Minneapolis, where Alan’s beloved Texas Tech would beat Michigan State later that evening — and of the upcoming Dallas mayoral race. Lynn McBee said her bid for the office was “going good,” while mayoral hopeful Regina Montoya said her run had garnered more individual campaign contributions than any other.
On the fashion front: Lisa’s fellow University of North Texas alumnus Michael Faircloth had designed her white gown, as well as those of Lisa Cooley and Tracy Lange. Pat McEvoy was in Elle Saab. Savannah had waited just hours before to decide on her sherbet gown. Troutt brother Preston’s accessory du jour was a sling resulting from a basketball accident. Kenny, who was still recovering from back surgery, had been told that he had to wear a brace for six weeks. However, he could have one day free from the brace. Kenny picked the Sweetheart Ball. (And, despite doctor’s orders, he couldn’t resist hitting the dance floor later on when Lisa surprised him with a performance by a Temptations-style band.)
Meantime, UT Southwestern President Dr. Dan Podolsky was reflecting on the Sweetheart Ball’s importance to his institution. “It’s a huge engine for support of our cardiology research and clinical programs,” Dan said. Over the years, he added, the “one-of-a-kind” event has raised at least $37 million for UT Southwestern, “allowing us to recruit and retain [outstanding] cardiology researchers and clinicians.”
Just past 8 p.m., grass-covered doors surrounded by white flowers and greenery opened at the top of the Oak Room stairs, leading to a promenade that appeared to be a glorious bouquet of even more white flowers and greenery. Guests strolled through the hallway lined with a dozen alcoves, where violinists were playing in front of still more pasture scenes.
At the end of their serenaded walk, open-mouthed guests like Mary Catherine and Don Huffines — the smiling former state senator was capturing the scene on his cellphone — found themselves dazzled by the lengthy Chairman’s Table, which was glowing with gold and crystal stemware, gold and white dinnerware, and small crowns designating the guests’ places. Overhead, three chandeliers were suspended among a drapery of wisteria and more greenery. Against the wall, with its magnificent mirrors and Sweetheart Ball wallpaper, was a stunning, Baroque-period French buffet console from the Troutts’ Dallas residence.
Nothing was left unnoticed. To accommodate the beading on Lisa’s gown, for instance, the back of her chair had been covered.
Adjacent to the room with the Chairman’s Table, attendees discovered that the Ballroom had been rearranged with still more violinists, a dance floor in front of the bandstand — Jordan Kahn‘s Manhattan orchestra would be entertaining — and 19 tables set for dinner. Each boasted a gorgeous white floral centerpiece that was surrounded by the gold and crystal stemware and the gold and white dinnerware, as well as place cards set in the tiny crowns.
As Lisa and most guests at the head table took their seats, handlers were seen giving each other a certain look. It seems that a handful of head-table guests was still standing about, chatting. Quietly, one of the handlers approached the group and advised them that the first course — caviar — was about to be served. As soon as the last seat was finally taken, the violinists in the hallway left their platforms to serenade the head table with a stirring version of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida,” and one of Dallas’ most prestigious fundraisers was under way in earnest.