Looking over the black-tie crowd in the foyer of the Anatole’s Chantilly Ballroom on Saturday, June 5, La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas Co-chairs Michaela Dyer and Kim Quinn were grateful that the weather hadn’t interfered with any of the week’s activities. True, the night before the Fiesta Under the Stars had had its issues with air conditioning and valet parking. But that was the only hiccup that they had encountered.
It was such a different story from last year’s program that had to be canceled due to the pandemic.
While the Duchesses and their escorts were going through a run-through of the presentation to come, all looked rested and relaxed. While some were taking selfies with pals and making last-minute checks of their gowns, a couple of Duchesses were still fine-tuning their bows or getting advice from La Fiesta advisors.
A note on the bows: The Fiesta Duchesses have their own spin on the legendary Texas Dip. In some ways, it’s a harder version. Because unlike the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League Debutantes, who are assisted in rising by the hand of their escort, the Duchesses have to return to standing position as their father and escort watch. There was one exception this year, when Whit Roberts couldn’t resist offering his hand to his daughter Duchess of Philadelphia Bethany Roberts.
As the Duchesses and escorts headed backstage, the crowd complete with a towering Statue of Liberty posing for photos was growing to the overflow stage, drawing a look or two from passing hotel guests decked out in swimsuits on their way to the pool.
Duchess mom Mary Parker, who had relocated with husband Joe Parker to Arkansas during the pandemic, was in town for daughter Duchess of Arkansas Rebecca Gill’s presentation on the arm of her father, Dr. John Gill. Mary admitted that the relocation was to have been temporary, but it ended up being permanent. Luckily, it didn’t interfere with her job as an American Airlines flight attendant.
Celese Gierhart was her mom Wanda Gierhart’s date. Seems Wanda’s husband, Chef Dean Fearing, was at Texas Horse Park cooking up some of his favorite items for the Equest Gala.
One of the favorite pastimes during the reception was families and friends having their photos taken next to the James French portrait of their favorite Duchess.
As for the look of the night, it was strictly black- and white-tie for the gents and long gowns and stilettos for the gals. But it was definitely noted that two trends were seen among the gowns. One was the form-fitting type that left nothing to the imagination. The other was the bare-back with crisscrossing straps. Needless to say, both these looks were worn by the Duchesses’ gal pals — not their moms or grandmoms.
All too soon the cocktail party ended as the doors to the ballroom opened with guests oh-so-slowly making their way to their tables for the presentation. In the crowd greeting guests entering the ballroom was 2020 La Fiesta Co-Chair Fran Matise, The next week, she and Co-Chair Mary Deaver would be holding the preview luncheon honoring the mothers of the 2020 Duchesses and escorts at Belo Mansion, a year behind schedule delayed by the pandemic.
As the announcer made the last-call of the program getting underway, a couple of youthful guests scurried to their chairs just in time. The center doors opened and in paraded the escorts following two scouts holding the U.S. and Texas flags. Made perfect sense, since the year’s theme “From Sea to Shining Sea” honored the United States.
As the escorts took their places on the stage, a handful of first responders was introduced and stood on the steps beneath the scouts. Just as Highland High School graduating senior JP Berry began singing the national anthem, all rose to their feet putting their right hands over their hearts, some singing along.
Following the welcome by Michaela and Kim and the individual introduction of all the escorts, the main act got underway with five groups of eight Duchesses, the fathers/stepfathers and escorts, to the cheers and cellphone salutes of the crowd.
Not one Duchess faltered; all dads/stepdads looked relieved that their mission had been accomplished; and the escorts offered their arm to the Duchesses.
After the final Duchess and escort were introduced, the 80 young women and men were introduced again, filling the stage to capacity. Then they were once again announced as they exited down the runway to the dance floor that was already filled with well-wishers. That’s where the rub came in. The floor was so crowded that anyone nervous about their dancing ability was relieved to find there was just no way to do even the smallest box step.
Funds raised from La Fiesta will benefit “projects within the Park Cities of an educational, charitable, and civic nature.”
For more than 60 photos of the night, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.