Around Town: April 2015
Downtown Waco is booming. Restaurants, food trucks, cool loft apartments and fun boutiques can all be found in the area. The area’s resurgence is a reason to rejoice. The Waco Symphony Council will do just that on April 11 at its second Celebrate Waco fundraising event.
“Last year’s Celebrate Waco was a huge success,” said Shelly Phipps, who is co-chairing the event with Julie Burleson. “This fundraising event is a chance for the Symphony Council to reach out to the entire community and host a cool New York-kind of event that has an urban feel to it. We also want to highlight the Waco Symphony’s commitment to being an important part of the Waco community.”
“Celebrate Waco 2015 will once again provide an opportunity for Waco residents to experience a taste of urban living that can be found in downtown and will feature even more food, fun and music than last year’s inaugural event.
The one-day event will once again feature its Sharp Flats tours of residential lofts. At least eight lofts will be included in the tours, which will leave every 20 minutes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Last year, our Sharp Flats tours sold out,” Shelly said. “This year we have added more tours and lofts. Each loft also will have some kind of event or activity, such as a cooking demonstration, floral arranging or a talk about wine.”
All the lofts are near the Waco Hippodrome, and tours will leave from the historic theater. Patrons can purchase tickets at the Hippodrome box office for $20 a person.
Celebrate Waco will include a new food-and-drink tour that will send patrons to restaurants and bars in the area. For a separate $30 arm band, guests can sample signature food and drinks at local establishments.
The 600 block of Austin Avenue also will be swarming with merchant vendors and live entertainment. Event organizers hope to create that urban feel with live music, caricature artists and mimes. There will even be a children’s area. Guests can move inside the Hippodrome to catch a free concert by Holly Tucker on the main stage.
The Symphony Council decided to forgo last year’s Diva Dash fun run and its “Great Gatsby” party and focus on Celebrate Waco itself.
Loft tour tickets can be purchased online by visiting Celebrate Waco’s Facebook page or at the Waco Hippodrome box office.
It’s been 45 years since the Waco Cotton Palace Production was revived after its demise at the start of the Great Depression and almost 90 years since Dallas resident Dorothy Lewis Ivey appeared at the original Cotton Palace as an attendant to the Cotton Palace queen.
Dorothy, who was 5 years old and a resident of West when she appeared in the production, remembers carrying the queen’s train with her best friend, Patsy Jones, during the 1927 production.
“We wore these beautiful dresses that my mother made. I think we were supposed to be butterflies because we wore these wings that were covered with sparkling tinsel. I used that outfit for dress-up for a long time after Cotton Palace,” Dorothy said.
“The queen was a girl from West, and that is why I was asked to be her attendant. I remember being told over and over not to drop the train. In those days, the production was held in a large auditorium. We walked down the aisle behind the queen and had to carry her train upstairs to the stage. Once she was seated, we left the stage. I think people were afraid we might act up since we were so young. Then we came back on stage when all the royal court made their exit. Cotton Palace was quite a big deal because cotton was so vital to the economy of the area.”
Dorothy’s father, Grover Lewis, served a short time as pastor of First Baptist Church in West. Not long after Cotton Palace the family moved to the Dallas area. Dorothy graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and taught high school English and Latin. Waco resident Heyward Green was her student when he was in high school in Marion, Illinois. The two have stayed in contact throughout the years. It was Heyward who told Cotton Palace organizers about Dorothy. Incidentally, Dorothy is the mother of Tony Award-winning actress Judith Ivey.
Dorothy hopes to be on the Cotton Palace stage once again at this year’s production. She will be a perfect guest for a production that is looking back to its roots.
Cotton Palace is celebrating its 45th year by bringing back some of the past traditions of the production, said Betsy Reeder, who is serving as general chairman of Cotton Palace.
“The presentation costume designer of the last nine years, Linda Vela, retired after last year’s production,” Betsy said. “Our current costume chairmen, Laura Palmer and Amanda Nesbitt, researched past designs and then used these older, classic designs as inspiration.”
Laura said she has thoroughly enjoyed selecting fabrics and trim and making sure each design is well suited for each girl’s body type.
“Design has always been a passion of mine, and I have been working on this project for more than a year,” Laura said. “I loved looking through books and images online to find historic inspiration for the designs. This year, we will blend the classic with the modern. And we are so fortunate to work with a local dressmaker, Roxana Robles. Cotton Palace is important to Waco’s economy, and we try to use local businesses whenever possible.”
This year’s Cotton Palace production will begin at 8 p.m. April 24 at Waco Hall. Tickets are on sale for $15 or $50.
Caritas Feast of Caring
Last year, I attended Caritas of Waco’s Feast of Caring Soup Cook-Off. It was a great event, and I discovered some new dishes to order at local restaurants while helping the nonprofit agency. Caritas will hold its tasty annual event at 6 p.m. April 21 in the Brazos Room at the Waco Convention Center.
The fundraising event will feature cold and hot soups from approximately 20 restaurants. Guests can vote for their favorite soups through tips. The restaurant that collects the most tips will win the coveted People’s Choice Award. Mystery judges will select their favorite soup for the Judge’s Choice Award.
The evening also will include silent and audible auctions, door prizes and live music. And to emphasize the mission of Caritas, table decorations will consist of fresh vegetables that will be donated to the food pantry.
Caritas of Waco serves approximately 2,000 families a month. Although the agency is known for distributing food to its clien
ts, the nonprofit has a wide range of other services. Caritas hosts GED classes in collaboration with McLennan Community College and job training in conjunction with Mission Waco. The agency runs two thrift stores. Caritas clients go through an interview process in which their needs are assessed and are given vouchers that can be used at the thrift stores.
One of Caritas’ new programs is its case management program. Started in January 2014, the program works to help clients become self-sufficient.
“Often our clients have various barriers to success,” said Tammy Stevens, director of the case management program. “We work with them to set goals and to remove those barriers. For example, Caritas could help a single mother find child care while she attends job training classes. There are a lot of different areas where we can help. Our goal is to work with people who become independent of systematic help. We want to help them get to a spot in their lives where they don’t need us anymore.”
In its first year, the case management program worked with 133 households. Of those, 105 were facing employment issues. Now, half of those are employed and 21 are continuing their education, Stevens said. Additionally, 29 out of 54 families who were homeless now have housing, she said.
Wondering what to wear as the weather heats up? Mission Waco will have that question covered at its eighth annual Fashion with a Passion luncheon and style show from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 23 at the Phoenix Ballroom.
The event will feature lunch catered by George’s, a fair-trade market, a silent auction and more. The popular clothespins activity will be held again. These clothespins, which can be purchased for $10, will be marked with a number that matches it with a mystery prize. You’ll want to grab your pin early; last year they sold out in minutes.
“The clothespins remind people to donate to the Clothes Pin, Mission Waco’s thrift store,” said Joyce Brammer, director of development. “We really need gently worn clothing to sell. The proceeds from our resale shop benefit Mission Waco’s substance and recovery programs.”
Fashions for the style show will be provided by Amelia’s Exchange, Collage at the Gift Horse, Tommy Bahama at Covet Antiques and Treasures, and Peas and Tots.
Funds raised from the style show will benefit Mission Waco’s arts program for children. Teens and children can explore the visual arts by experimenting with clay, crafts, drawing, origami and more. The agency’s Jubilee Theatre allows young people to learn about the performing arts throughout the year, including a one-week summer theater camp. Patrons at Fashion with a Passion will be treated to a scene from the Jubilee Theatre’s production of “Alice in Wonderland.”
Tickets cost $40 per person or $320 for a table of eight. Reservations must be made by April 20. For more information, call 753-4900.
Do you love to learn about those eccentric Texans who are so beloved in our state? John Russell “Hondo” Crouch was a humorist, writer, and owner and self-proclaimed mayor of Luckenbach and is the subject of a book written by his daughter, Barbara Patterson.
That book, “Hondo: My Father,” will be the subject of a book review by Ethel Rentfro on April 29 at Austin Avenue United Methodist Church.
Hondo was born in 1916 in Hondo and was an All-American swimmer at the University of Texas, where he was awarded a degree in physical education in 1941. From 1963 to 1975, under the pen name Peter Cedarstacker, Crouch wrote about 600 “Cedar Creek Clippings” for the Comfort News. Through his characters from the mythical town of Cedar Creek he satirized politics, ecology, deer hunters, social life and everyday country problems and celebrations. In 1971 he bought Luckenbach, where he presided as mayor over a population of three plus a single parking meter.
Book reviewer Rentfro is a native Texan herself. Groups throughout the U.S. have enjoyed her informative talks about the books she loves. Her first-person approach to presenting a book review has become her trademark. She is a member of the Dallas Reviewers and was recognized by the American Association of University Women as a Woman of Achievement. Incidentally, Ethel has a Waco connection. Her late husband, John, was senior pastor of Austin Avenue United Methodist Church in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She lives in Belton.