To say the 2018 Crystal Charity Ball had a "New Orleans" theme would steal the elegance of its official motif: "A Celebration in Nouvelle-Orléans."
Chairwoman Claire Emanuelson had chosen the theme not only as a nod to her mother's French heritage but also to fete the tricentennial of the beloved Southern city, she announced last spring.
Upon arrival to the Hilton Anatole Hotel, 1,500 guests — dressed in their finest ballgowns and tuxedos — walked down a hallway of moss-covered trees and into a postcard-perfect French Quarter vignette. A bubbling fountain that seemed straight from a famous old New Orleans courtyard provided one of many Instagram-worthy backdrops.
Inside the cocktail reception, a replica of the revolving carousel bar from Hotel Monteleone poured premium libations. Bartenders also pointed guests to the nearest Hurricanes, which were being passed on trays.
Gorgeous displays of vibrantly colored roses climbed iron lamp posts to adorn oversized displays of hors d'oeurves. Guests daintily loaded their plates with Big Easy-inspired canapes of mini muffaletta lollipops, Andouille sausage puffs, sliders, and jumbo Gulf shrimp.
After having portraits made by John French Photography and grabbing glasses of wine and bubbly, attendees — including Piper Wyatt, Cara French, Alison Malone, Tiffany Divis, Susan Farris, Tucker Enthoven, Sami Arslanlar, Muffin Lemak, John Clutts, Holly Riefe, James Riefe, Kate Rose Marquez, John Levis, James Tarpeh, Jessica Johnson, Annette Watkins, C.A. Anderson, Susan O’Brien, Brooke Hortenstien, Nardos Iman, and Delayna Minter — began bidding in the silent auction. Up for grabs were magnificent trips, fine jewelry, artwork, runway fashion experiences, one-of-a-kind accessories, and many more exquisite items.
Patrons also perused the The French Market for holiday gifts, including small electronics, beautiful housewares, and furry stuffed animals and mini cars for kids. Those who (literally) wanted to let the good times roll hit the casino early.
A few minutes before 9 pm, the Kinfolk Brass Band led a festive, high-stepping second-line parade into the Chantilly Ballroom for dinner.
They continued to play and dance inside, and soon were joined by the joyous sounds of a choir from Booker T. Washington High School. It's rare for people to take so long to sit down to dinner, but the band and choir were so entertaining, folks couldn't help but clap, dance, and capture video on their phones.
Attendees found their tables, which were adorned with opulent arrangements of roses and hydrangeas, and some had wisteria trees towering over the top. When the entertainers paraded out, the James Davis Orchestra took the music down a notch to allow for pleasant dinner conversation.
Throughout the evening, guests could be overheard discussing the Cowboys' recent victory over the Saints (apropros of the night's theme); anticipating their holiday plans; and sharing memories of President George H.W. Bush, who had passed away the night before.
A sumptuous three-course meal started with a Crab Louie salad with Galatoire's Remoulade Blanc and lemon tarragon vinaigrette. Next came a pan-seared filet of beef with sherry mushroom compote; potato and parsnip puree; bacon and balsamic crispy Brussels sprouts; and braised carrots. A chocolate hazelnut profiterole with lemon cream was the most gorgeous, sculptural work of art on any dessert plate all social season. Throughout the evening, wines from Duckhorn and Rodney Strong were poured.
Spotted in the crowd, enjoying dinner, were Tiffany Work, James Emanuelson, Julie Castro, Gabe Castro, Tracy Fulton, Dotti Reeder, Joseph Mahoney, Kara Goss, Randall Goss, Ciara Cooley, Jake Fraze, Leonardo Gonzalez, Andrea Devaldenebro, Jamie Watley, Rhandi Bobo, Shawn Kaplan, Tish Cruciani, Ed Hellwig, Kelly Hellwig, Rhonda Marcus, Frasier Marcus, Rob Bowlby, Sarah Bowlby, Kathy Crow, Michael Crow, Lynn McBee, Tracy Lang, Bela Cooley, Chase Cooley, Kate Ford, Christel Crigler, and Tracy Madans.
It didn't take long for the music to gear up again and for the dance floor to fill to the brim. Big Blast and The Party Makers, a party band from Atlanta, kept the room moving and grooving long after the last bites of dinner had been eaten.
Those with tired feet scooped up their party favors — including a box of note cards from Tiffany & Co. — and exited back to the foyer. There, they could check silent auction bids one last time; hit the casino tables again; and try for one last chance in a raffle for a 2019 Lexus, which was parked inside.
On the way to the valet stand, guests got one last taste of the Big Easy — fresh, hot beignet doughnuts made on site (and covered in mounds of powdered sugar, just like at Cafe du Monde).
Tom Addis of Tom Addis Productions, Junior and Maria Villanueva of The Garden Gate Floral Design, Hilton Anatole executive chef Rigoberto Lemus, and a host of others helped bring the "Nouvelle-Orléans" night to life.
The 66th annual black-tie gala is the grand finale of the social season and benefits children's charities around the city. This year's beneficiaries are After-School All-Stars North Texas, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas, Buckner Children and Family Services, Friends of the Dallas Public Library, Mosaic Family Services, Nexus Recovery Center, and Ronald McDonald House of Dallas.