The Dallas Symphony Orchestra League organizers’ timing had waltzed around the pandemic. In 2020 the Presentation Ball’s final deb had scarcely taken her bow on the Meyerson stage when the pandemic more or less shut down major in-person fundraising. A year later and, despite the arrival of vaccinations, it was still too soon for the next Ball to take place.
But this year, thanks to protocols being followed as well as the vaccinations and boosters, the 2022 Dallas Symphony Orchestra fundraiser got underway with hardly a mask in sight on Saturday, February 12, at the Meyerson.
This year’s collection of 48 debs (Nora Arnold, Virginia Baker, Bailey Beaird, Cambridge Bender, London Boscamp, Abigail Brannon, Riley Cheek, Gracie Condon, Amelia Cox, Erin Daugherty, Eliza Davis, Katherine Downing, Katherine Edwards, Katie Elliott, Virginia Fielder, Sydney Goodiel, Katherine Hancock, Audrey Hanna, Emily Hea, Reva Henderson, Ava Heppner, Julia Hicks, Stephanie Hirschbrich, Sophie Hung, Madigan Jacoby, Grace Judin, Claire Koonsman, Story Langston, Ashley Laughlin, McKinley Lawson, Brooke Marvel, Ashlyn Meuse, Anna Mikeska, Kate Murray, Ashlee Newton, Abbey Perry, Mary Tarver Reid, Anna Robinowitz, Annie Sawers, Bella Scott, Sarah Smith, Lydia Szuwalski, Margaret Thompson, Samantha Ungerman, Ella Varel, Annie Walker, Elizabeth Walsh, Tory Wicklund and Kelsey Wittmann) included some 2021 debs whose bows didn’t take place due to last year’s Ball’s being canceled.
In the weeks leading up to the white-tie-and-tails gala at the Meyerson, the debs, their honor guard escorts and parents had been celebrated with teas, cocktail receptions, dinners and all types of get-togethers.
Then came the big night, and it was as though there had never been a blip in the annual fundraiser.
The debs gloriously gathered, looking like swans on the stairway leading to the McDermott Concert Hall for a group photo with DSOL President Venise Stuart and Presentation Ball chair Elizabeth Gambrell. As they did so, three young women just entering the Meyerson spotted one of their deb-friends on the stairway and cried out: “Julia! Julia!”
Then of course there were photos of the debs and the escorts with their parents, all taken by Gittings.
As soon as the final group photo was taken, the debs and escorts headed backstage to chill and chow down, while Venise and Elizabeth took to the empty stage for a last-minute run-through of the program. As Event Producer Jan Strimple strolled out to help, two ushers at the back of the hall took note. “There’s Jan Strimple, the one and only,” one of them said. “An incredible lady.” The other nodded and said: “She’s been doing it longer than I have!”
Meanwhile, deb families and friends like Cara French with daughter Lilly French, were promenading along the Meyerson entryway, checking out the gallery of deb portraits—many of them snapping cellphone pictures of the portraits—before heading downstairs to the reception.
There was no need for musical entertainment at the packed-to-the-gills reception. Just catching up provided plenty of entertainment by itself.
Honor guard escort Alec Dewar’s mom, busy attorney Yvette Ostolaza, reported that she had lost nearly 30 pounds during the pandemic. No, she hadn’t come down with COVID-19. The weight loss was due to her not having to travel and subsist on the road on junk food.
Jane Smith looked elegant in her dark navy coat dress with her silver hair and cheekbones. Her secret was to keep to the traditional look, and on this evening she opted for comfortable. While the 83-year-old laughed when someone noted another guest’s tattoo and asked whether Jane had one, the answer was, “No, but I did get my left ear pierced when I was 65.”
Venise Stuart resurrected her red Patti Flowers gown from the 2015 ball that she had chaired. (DSOL President Elizabeth was in Oscar de la Renta.) And what is Venise going to do once her duties as DSOL president are over? “Sleep and eat,” she quipped.
Joined by Todd Clendening, Marena and Roger Gault and Lina and Mohan Komanduri, Presentation Ball Honorary Chair Sherwood Wagner also tapped Patti’s designing talents to create her look for the night.
And speaking of designs of the night, the designing skills of Stanley Korshak were very much in evidence, with more than 20 of the debs wearing Korshak creations.
Due to the larger-than-usual crowd, the lines to the bars downstairs were sobering. And for many late arrivals the lengthy wait was all for naught, as the call to the program rang out abruptly just after 7:15 p.m.
One veteran was advised by his committee-member wife to head for the upstairs bar, because “it’s gonna be a long night.”
Actually, the night would turn out to be not that long—thanks to Elizabeth’s streamlining a program that allowed the presentation to move right along without losing the elegance of the occasion.
That fact was all the more amazing when, in addition to the near-record-breaking number of bows, there were all the whoops and cheers—especially from the younger audience members—that sometimes made the affair feel like a pep rally for bows. The orchestra playing snippets of each girl’s special song also kept things lively, from “The Yellow Rose of Texas” and “Isn’t She Lovely” to “My Girl,” “L-O-V-E” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
Guests who’d settled into their seats were able to review the event program that had a touching note on the final page. “In memory of Marjorie Beck Waters, President and Publisher of The Park Cities News for 44 years,” it read. “Friend of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League Presentation Ball and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League April 14, 1929 – January 5, 2022.”
The evening’s only hiccup was the parade of debs and escorts from the McDermott Concert Hall to the Lobby dance floor for the first dance of the night. Unlike in years past, when the couples followed a path arriving at the side of the band stage with the escorts peeling off and the debs floating to their dads stationed around the dance floor, this year the aisle leading down the lobby’s stairs didn’t follow the usual course.
Instead, it went straight from the stairway to the dance floor, with no place for the escorts to peel off. After a slight delay for a pow-wow to remedy the situation, openings on both sides of the aisle were created, with staffers looking like black-tie traffic cops directing the escorts away.
While waiting for deb daughter Katherine Downing to arrive at the dance floor for the first dance (to, what else, “Moon River”), Jason Downing was asked about two of his three daughters (Dallas Symphony Assembly President Caroline Downing and Katherine) having been debs, and his youngest daughter, Kennedy Downing, waiting in the wings.
He admitted that the idea of buying three wedding dresses was one thing, but now the cold reality of having to underwrite six white gowns was really settling in. “I’m gonna need to get a loan!” Jason laughed.
For more looks of the night, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.