Photo by Tamytha Cameron and Nate Rehlander

What: 2023 Equest Blue Ribbon Ball

Equest Blue Ribbon Ball 2023

Photo by Tamytha Cameron and Nate Rehlander

Maggie Kipp, Eric Stephenson

Where: Al Hill, Jr. Arena at Texas Horse Park

The 411: A brief rain shower didn't dampen spirits at Equest's outdoor gala - in fact, it was welcome respite on a June night.

More than 550 patrons gathered for the annual boots-and-jeans fundraising ball, headed by co-chairs Lindsay Ballotta and Jenny Merkle, with honorary chairs Kristina and Phil Whitcomb and Equest board co-chairs Lisa Loy Laughlin and Clint Haggerty.

After grabbing a glass of bubbly from the champagne wall, attendees made their way into the horse arena for a cocktail reception, featuring a signature drink made with Mejinta Tequila and Pendery’s spices.

AVSD Productions provided a groovy virtual reality experience that let guests feel like they were riding a Kentucky Derby horse or learning to fly. Nearby, pianists Nick Luby and Susan Zhang entertained with a performance on the popular Dallas Symphony Orchestra Concert Truck.

Emcee Jody Dean welcomed guests as they sat down to a multicourse meal and heard from Equest’s new CEO, Myrshem George. Dallas City Council member Jaime Resendez presented the 2023 Citation Award to Nancy and Ron Natinsky, and Equest co-founder Susan Schwartz presented the special Founder’s Award to Lili Kellogg, who recently retired after a 28-year tenure.

After a special performance by dancers from Arthur Murray, keynote speaker Clint Bruce, co-founder of Carry the Load, talked of the challenges veterans face when they come home after serving and underscored the importance of programs that Equest provides.

A spirited live auction conducted by Louis Murad helped to push the evening's fundraising total past $550,000. To celebrate, patrons hit the dance floor and moved and grooved to the sounds of party band Limelight.

The Blue Ribbon Ball raises funds for equine-assisted therapies and other services provided by Equest; for more information, visit the nonprofit's website.

Who: Maggie Kipp, Eric Stephenson, Payne Wingate, Kelly Wingate, Finley Konrade, Eric Konrade, Angie Denton, Hillary Lynch, Audra Hopper, Jessica Barnett, Adam Steggers, Rebecca Steggers, Ashlyn Hayworth, Ava Staton, Georgia Phillips, Carolyn Anderson, Meredith McKay, Julie Bagley, Michelle Scotter, Brooke Bailey, Sara Rockey, Elizabeth Dacus, Lucy and John Bannon, Thomas Laughlin, Caitlin Laughlin, Julie Gonzalez, John Gonzalez, Greg Cooper, Christina Heddesheimer, Wade Betz, Becca Betz, Elsa Norwood, Angie Kadesky, Jim Kenny, Janelle Kenny, Paul Divis, Tiffany Divis, Colin Mathews, Karly Kilroy, Nellie Kuh, Bianca Moore, Ryan Casey, Kelly Casey, Carol Burnside, Kathleen Delamore, Scott Delamore, and hundreds more patrons and guests.

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Universal theme park in Frisco will be a first-of-its-kind Kids Resort

Theme Park News

The big splashy theme park coming to Frisco has a name and identity: Called Universal Kids Resort, it's from Universal Destinations & Experiences, a division of Comcast NBCUniversal, and is the company's first-ever theme park designed specifically for families with young children.

Previously described as a "family-friendly" concept, it's doubling down on the "kids" element, vowing to bring an innovative style of storytelling to a new, younger audience. So, more Disney-ish.

According to a release, Universal Kids Resort will include a theme park featuring immersive themed lands that bring Universal's characters and stories to life in ways that will wow the youngest theme parkgoers.

It will feature family-friendly attractions, interactive and playful shows, unique merchandise, fun food and beverage venues, and character meet & greets.

A resort area will include a 300-room themed hotel, giving families a place to stay and to play.

"Universal Kids Resort will inspire the unbridled creativity of kids through imagination, discovery and most importantly – play," says Universal Creative president Molly Murphy in a statement. "We're designing the resort so kids and families can feel the thrill of being physically immersed in their most beloved stories and characters."

It'll be set in green landscape with a distinctive look, feel, and scale specifically for younger kids. Progress on the new concept is underway, following a groundbreaking in November. With more details about Universal Kids Resort to come.

Crooner Michael Bublé to make appearance in Dallas for his new whiskey

Less burn, more Bublé

Crooner Michael Bublé has made a career using his voice to enchant millions of fans, but he'll be using his voice in a different way when he stops in Dallas on December 6 in support of a new whiskey he's released.

Called Fraser & Thompson, it's a North American whiskey launched in 2023 by Bublé and his partner Paul Cirka, a Master Distiller and Blender with a goal to create an aromatic and approachable new-to-world whiskey.

Bublé will be at Spec’s Wines & Spirits at 9500 N. Central Expwy. on December 6 from 4-5 pm.

According to a release, he’ll be at the brand’s "Easy, Now" lounge experience (IE, the events space at Spec's), where consumers over 21 can try samples.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early in order to ensure they are able to meet Bublé during the allotted time.

Retailing for $29.99 with the catch phrase, "Less burn, more Bublé," the whiskey is so new that its website is still under construction.

The release describes it as having sweet fig and blood orange on the nose, with a subtle finish of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of spice.

“Michael and I bonded over our shared passion for whisky, and wanted to create a blend that was flavorful but more light-hearted than the category at large can be known for," says Fraser & Thompson co-founder Cirka.

According to Bublé, the name Fraser Thompson references a location in his hometown Canada.

"I spent many summers with my grandfather at the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson rivers in British Columbia," Bublé says. "When I heard Paul’s vision for creating a new kind of whiskey, I knew instantly what I wanted to call it. For the last three years, we worked together to perfect a whiskey blend that is equally elegant and approachable."

Bublé, of course, is doing just fine, even before making the jump into the celebrity liquor game. He's released 11 albums in his 20+ year singing career, selling millions of albums and almost singlehandedly reviving the jazz standards genre.

He's also not new to the beverage world, having partnered with Pepsi on a series of amusing commercials for their Bubly sparkling water.

2 freeway shutdowns this weekend in northeast Dallas of I-635 and US-75

Freeway News

Drivers in northeast Dallas, take note: A portion of I-635 will be closed in all directions and it's happening this weekend.

As part of the continuous I-635E improvement project, there will be major impacts to traffic on the interstate and cross streets throughout this weekend.

All lanes along eastbound and westbound I-635E between Abrams Road and Forest Lane will be closed beginning Saturday evening, December 2 at 8 pm through Sunday morning, December 3 at 12 pm.

Drivers will be detoured to the frontage roads to access the next available entrance ramp onto the mainlanes.

Both directions of Abrams Road and Forest Lane cross street bridges at I-635E will be closed during this time, as well.

Traffic will be detoured through the alternate streets: Abrams Road, Audelia Road, Royal Lane, and Walnut Street.

All lanes along Markville Drive at the eastbound I-635 frontage road will also be closed. Drivers will be detoured to Greenville Avenue and Royal Lane to access the next entrance ramp.

Drivers should expect delays, seek alternate routes or plan for extra travel time. All scheduled work and closures are subject to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

US 75 closure
In the same weekend, all lanes of southbound US 75 will be closed at the I-635 junction on Saturday, December 3 at 9 pm until Monday, December 4 at 5 am, for a sign maintenance project. Traffic can detour onto the southbound US 75 frontage road to go around this closure. There will still be access to I-635 during this time. Plan ahead for extra travel time or seek an alternate route.

For additional information related to the 635 East Project, visit www.635east.com.