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Society / The Seen

The World’s Biggest Cocktail Party Means Millions for Houston Ballet

It’s Miles and Miles of Shopping at Nutcracker Market

BY // 11.08.18
photography Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio

We entered NRG Center with shopping bags in hand, walking shoes beneath our cocktail attire and high expectations of the holiday possibilities that awaited at the Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market. Unimpeded by the expected crowds due to our early arrival, we walked and shopped, walked and shopped — until we had logged 2.2 miles and $2.2 million in purchases.

OK, so that last was a bit exaggerated.

But we did our part with shopping bags bulging with Christmas gifts, decorations and the ultimate stocking stuffer for moi, resulting from a visit with Santa Fe, New Mexico, jeweler Rocki Gorman. Yes, we contributed significantly to the Houston Ballet Foundation, which garners 11 percent of merchandise sales. Since its beginning, the market has raised more than $63 million for the ballet.

We were among the 4,000 shoppers who converged on the Wells Fargo Preview Party, making this probably the largest “cocktail party” in the world. In previous years of the market’s 38-year history, the preview party was indeed a cocktail party for which the merry throng dressed accordingly. Not so any longer.

Ladies of the Houston Ballet Guild, who organize the wildly successful event, typically dress up while others ponying up for the premium-priced tickets for advance shopping (plus buffet stations and beaucoup bars) do not. Designer jeans and Ferragamo flats, leather leggings, western boots and running shoes, the look is decidedly casual.

Welcoming the mind-boggling contingent on Wednesday night were Nutcracker Market chair Wendy Wilkins Burks, Preview Party chairs Kim and Scott David and C.C. and Duke Ensell, along with Wells Fargo financial advisor Patricia Green (a ballet board member) and Wells Fargo regional vice president Darryl Montgomery.

The shopping extravaganza, boasting more than 270 merchants, continues through Sunday.

Nutty for the Nutcracker: Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch, managing director Jim Nelson, market CEO Patsy Chapman, Gaylon and Don Gullquist, Rose Cullen, Jo and Jim Furr, Mehrnaz Gill, Donatella Benckenstein, Phoebe Tudor, Shawn Stephens, Shelly Ludwick, Ann Trammell, Andy Delery, Denise Bush Bahr, Kristy Bradshaw, and Philamena and Arthur Baird.

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