At the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum’s 2022 Mad Hatter Tea on Wednesday, April 20, someone said, “It’s so nice seeing things back to normal.” A nearby first-timer looked a bit startled and asked her friend, “This is normal?”
What the newbie quickly learned was that this flurry of ostrich-feathered hats and wildly outrageous toppers were very normal when Mad Hattersville takes over the Dallas Arboretum to support the Women’s Council of the Arboretum.
But this year’s event based on the theme “Dallas” had a bit of extra oomph. While Women’s Council President Lisa Loy Laughlin and Event Chair Claire Catrino were just grateful that the overnight rain had gone elsewhere, it resulted in 20 MPG gusts of wind, 45% humidity and temperatures in the upper 80s for the event that started at 12:30 p.m. with a champagne reception in the Scott K. Ginsburg Family Plaza. Thanks to the wind, wide-brimmed sun bonnets almost took flight like kites, hats towering above nearly toppled the wearer and adorable silk skirts were skyward. At times it was a daunting decision on whether to hold your hat on or your skirt down.
While Dr. Linda Burk was true to the theme, complete with a basket of State Fair fare and a Ferris Wheel on her hat, she ended up doing a juggling act trying to steady herself for photos.
Honorary Chair Laurie Sands Harrison got back to her roots with a photo of her mother, the late Caroline Rose Hunt, in her chapeau.
Still others like the Real Hat Wives Of Dallas boasted individual versions of Dallas, like Mary Menefee‘s fav shopping spots.
Things had been changed up a bit for the hat competition during the hour-long champagne reception in the Scott K. Ginsburg Family Plaza. In the past, guests who wanted to enter the hat competition were given paddles with numbers to identify themselves as they paraded in front of the judges seated on the covered terrace. This year it was a bit of a free for all. The judges (Barbara Bigham, Mary Brinegar, Amy Lewis Hofland, Vanessa Logan and Tanya Taylor) were forced to leave their chairs and lean over the terrace’s edges to call to passersby for their names.
However, the crowd of more than 530 hat-wearing guests were suddenly upstaged when Amber Griffin and escort arrived. While statuesque Amber in a red formfitting, floor-length gown with high-neck deep-diving cutout bodice was eye-catching enough, it was her sidekick that stopped traffic.
While the champagne had been flowing generously, guests knew they weren’t seeing “pink elephants.” Rather, Amber’s companion was a miniature white horse with sparkly rhinestones in his forelock. He was introduced to guests simply as “Henry.”
Since only service animals are allowed at the Arboretum, major backroom discussions among Arboretum staffers and Henry’s handler got underway that would have made the Ukrainian-Russian negotiations seem namby-pamby. Amber initially insisted that Henry was her service animal, but it turned out that the two had only hitched up recently.
To prevent making a bigger scene than Amber and Henry’s arrival had created, two security officers quietly suggested that the twosome step outside. Minutes later Amber returned with no Henry in sight. It seems Henry had gotten the boot and was off to greener pastures.
Among the guests who know their area children’s parties, Henry’s true identity was revealed. It seems he’s well-known on the local youngsters’ party circuit as Dallas Pony Rental’s “Topper.” One of his favorite gigs is to come as a unicorn with a temporary horn in place.
In the meantime, things got back to Mad Hatter normal with emcee Calvert Collins calling guests to a covered stage overlooking A Tasteful Garden for the judging results.
As the guests gathered in the open area in front of the stage, the weather was both a blessing and a challenge for the hat-wearing crowd. The afternoon sun and heat were starting to make the wide-brimmed hats provide a welcome shade. But the gusts of wind continued to be challenging. In fact, as Claire tried to juggle the papers on the podium, hold the microphone and hold on to her hat, the hat went sailing away. Not missing a beat, as the hat headed to White Rock, Claire announced, “Our hats are off to you.” Luckily Calvert quickly retrieved that flighty hat and replaced it on Claire’s noggin.
Another couple of victims of the windy conditions were Marena Gault and Elizabeth Smith, who tied for Best Use Of Botanical Components. As they approached the stage, their towering masterpieces required hands-on treatment and a balancing act that would have impressed Nik Wallenda.
But the problems created by the breezes weren’t limited to the tops of heads. Those ladies in the season’s trendy short silky skirts found themselves looking like they were re-creating Marilyn Monroe‘s legendary “flying skirt” scene.
In announcing the rest of the day’s winners, Claire introduced the judges, with “Dallas Dynasty” judge Amy Lewis Hofland registering a look of surprise when she was described as the executive director of the Perot Museum. While the “museum” part and position were right, Amy was and still is the executive director of the Crow Museum. Don’t you just know that it’s easy to get those philanthropic family names confused.
But the “oops” was quickly forgotten as the following winners were announced:
- Most True To Theme: “Flying Horse” — Prashe Shah
- Best Big Over The Top Texas Hat: “Everything Is Bigger In Texas!” — Dr. Linda Burk
- Best Fascinator: “Uptown Girl” — Venise Stuart
- Best Group Hats “Dallas Dynasty” — Debbie at Table 50 (Debbie McKeever and friends)
- People’s Choice Award: “Deep In The Hat Of Texas” — Robert Wilson
- Best In Show: “Don’t Mess With Dallas” — Sharla Bush and Terry Irby (tie)
Terry admitted that she was probably going to have a very sore neck after bearing the weight of a mini-Arboretum atop her head.
With the winners announced, the guests adjourned to Rosine Hall and its covered terrace for a luncheon that was followed by a Tootsie’s fashion presentation orchestrated by Jan Strimple and highlighted by Tanya Taylor’s designs at 3 p.m.
For more head-turning looks, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.