Society / Featured Parties

Billionaire Tilman Fertitta’s Mardi Gras Dreamworld Brings a Shimmering Ice Tunnel and Heart-Thumping Entertainment

Galveston's Ultimate Spectacle Gets Even More Wild — and VIP Filled

BY // 02.25.20

How else would one imagine entering a “Royal Ice Garden,” the decorative theme of Galveston Mardi Gras’ San Luis Salute, than through a shimmering ice tunnel? In the journey between the deep freeze and the ballroom of the San Luis Conference Center, the 2,000 revelers passed through a gateway flanked by larger than life vikings and sleighs carved from walls of faux ice.

Even 24 years into its run, the Fertitta family’s Mardi Gras bash, benefiting the UT Medical Branch at Galveston, is an instant sellout, the popularity based on the lavish decor and mind-blowing entertainment. Each year, it is an undeniable spectacular, having early on earned Tilman Fertitta the title of Mr. Mardi Gras. The bash design and orchestration over the years masterminded by The Events Company and its leader Richard Flowers.

The San Luis went Scandinavian in a cooly elegant setting defined by blocks of ice centerpieces filled with white orchids, life-sized ice sculptures of Nordic vikings, ice benches with faux fur throws, blue laser lights coursing across the ballroom and trees with Tivoli lights (a la Copenhagen) sparkled throughout.

San Luis Salute 21Feb2020
Julie & Stephen Chen in the ice tunnel at the San Luis Salute (Photo by Gary Fountain)

The good times on this night were guaranteed by the pre-ball crush happy hour which was saturated with free-flowing Veuve Cliquot, themed cocktails (such as Nordic Grogg) and premium liquors served at carved ice bars. By the time the curtains opened on the glistening winter tableau with the sounds of “I Gotta Feelin,” aka “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” blasting through the venue at the hands of Atlanta’s The Big Beyond party band, it was clearly par-tee time!

Dancing commenced as soon as guests worked their way through the myriad tables to the dance floor. And continued long into the night thanks to the sounds of the wildly popular Chainsmokers that essentially blew the roof off the convention center. The dance floor was packed into the late night hours.

Stilt walkers, silver Elan dancers, an aerialist cum violinist spinning overhead and dueling DJs added to the nonstop entertainment.

A brief break in the revelry brought on the parade of Knights of Momus duchesses, who had been formally presented the previous weekend at the 1894 Opera House, introduction of the party hosts — the Fertitta family, royal waves from King Frivolous Gary Peters and Momus Queen Frannie Kusnerik. And, as is tradition, there was introduction of the politicos and notables who contribute to the evening’s pizzazz.

Among those passing through the sword arbor of Texas A&M Cadets were Houston police chief Art Acevedo, CNBC’s Brian Sullivan, Jefferies chairman and CEO Richard Handler, Congressman Randy Weber, dean of the Texas state senate John Whitmire, State Sen. Larry Taylor, University of Houston chancellor and president Renu Khator, and the Fertitta family.

These VIPs were seated at Fertitta tables on the edge of the dance floor where service was impeccable, security evident and the revelry particularly enthused.

The Chainsmokers, took the stage for a 75-minute show performing a variety of their Platinum and Multi-Platinum smash hits including “Closer,” “Paris,” “Something Just Like This,” along with some oldies but goodies that had the packed dance floor singing along.

PC Seen: Paige Fertitta, Blake Fertitta, Blayne Fertitta, Maria and Neil Bush, Frank Billingsley and Kevin Gilliard, Dancie and Jim Ware, Stephanie and Ernie Cockrell, Libbie and Bill Ansell, Chita and Lane Craft, Monica Bueso and Carter Ware, Emma Willingham and Lane Ware, Brian Teichman and Andrew Crodes, Sarah Beth and Pierce Bush, Frances Moody and Tony Buzbee, Brenda and Tom Koch, Ellie and Michael Francisco, and Francie Moody Dahlberg and Kevin Dahlberg.

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