Society / Featured Parties

Hermann Park’s Future — and a Dreamy New Dog Park — Get a Big Boost From This Evening to Remember

A Pivot Everyone Loves, Rain No Matter

BY // 05.06.21
photography Priscilla Dickson

Throughout its decades-long history, Hermann Park Conservancy’s “Evening in the Park” has seen all kinds of weather from perfectly glorious to steamy to, at least one, torrential downpour. The most recent benefit evening, despite heavy rains throughout the day, evolved into a totally pleasant, if a bit muddy, celebration of the conservancy’s work and of patrons Laura and Brad McWilliams.

Co-chairs Jo and Jim Furr, and Roslyn Bazzelle Mitchell and Derrick Mitchell as well as conservancy staff had already adjusted the time-proven format to accommodate concerns about COVID-19. Rather than dinner and program under one large tent, the program was held on the Molly Smith Plaza while charming individual dinner table tents were strung along the edges of the Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool.

It was a pivot that many applauded as it created a series of practically private dinner parties, catered by City Kitchen, flanked at the forefront by cocktails and at the finish by dancing on the plaza to the tunes of DJ Mav. And the move did little to dampen support. The benefit raised $650,000, beyond the goal, for the care and improvement of Hermann Park. That figure is substantially higher than proceeds from both the 2019 and 2018 Evening in the Park benefits.

Laura and Brad McWilliams, known for their commitment to rescue and foster dogs, were honored for providing the lead $1 million gift for the $2 million dog park. When completed in late 2021 or early 2022, the off-leash park will have dedicated spaces for large and small dogs, play equipment, water features, ample shade and on-site parking. Conservancy president Doreen Stoller, who was joined by conservancy pooch Lulu, noted that the dog park was one of the most requested features from park-goers. It will be located along Brays Bayou and South MacGregor Way in the southern tip of Hermann Park.

Further applause were generated by conservancy board chair Kristy Bradshaw, who announced the Play Your Park campaign. With innovative play spaces, natural habitats and plantings, public art installations, gathering areas and the McWilliams Dog Park, the project will lead Hermann Park into the next phase of the conservancy’s 20-year master plan.

_W6A5749 – Marcus & Heidi Smith, Crystal & Randall Wright (Photo by Priscilla Dickson)
Marcus & Heidi Smith, Crystal & Randall Wright at the Hermann Park Conservancy Evening in the Park (Photo by Priscilla Dickson)

“The Park welcomes over 6 million visitors every year, and that number continues to grow due to the amount of people utilizing outdoor spaces now more than ever,” Bradshaw says. “That’s why the Play Your Park campaign is so important for this city. It will give Houstonians now, and for generations to come, a place to call their own.”

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Centerpiece of that plan will be the 26-acre Commons at the southwest corner of the park along Fannin and Cambridge Streets, adjacent to the Texas Medical Center. The now undeveloped area will be transformed into “a green and scenic locale for patient families, and health care professionals to venture to when in need of a break.”

PC Seen: Evening in the Park 2020 honoree Marley Lott (whose previously planned moment in the spotlight was canceled due to COVID-19), Anne and John Clutterbuck, Yvonne Cormier, Isabel and Danny David, Kristen and John Berger, Susie and Sanford Criner, C.C. and Mack Fowler, Jane Cizik, Vance Muse, Denise Monteleone and Jim Martin, Patrick Summers, Allison and Troy Thacker, Y. Ping Sun and David Leebron, and Leigh and Reggie Smith.

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