Society / The Seen

Houston’s Big Bang Ball: Firework Fountains, Burning Money & Galactic Cocktails Shake Up a Museum

BY // 03.07.17
photography Priscilla Dickson

From the moment they signed on to chair the Houston Museum of Natural Science Gala, chairs Kelli Weinzierl and Shawn Stephens were intent on shaking things up — not an easy task for this is one black-tie fundraiser which soars simply on the merit of  the museum’s intriguing collections.

But these dynamos were on a mission. And so they dubbed their evening “The Big Bang Ball,” a play, Weinzierl pointed out, on both the cosmological model for the universe and the popular television series The Big Bang Theory, as well as a nod to last year’s $2.5 million renovation of the museum’s Burke Baker Planetarium.

In their own personal salute to the theme, the chairs dressed accordingly — Weinzierl in a Cavalli gown featuring explosions of beading on a midnight background and Stephen’s gown in green, embellished with planets at the shoulder and the hemline, a design by her daughter Shelby.

Setting the stage were dazzling fountains of fireworks that intermittently spewed from columns around the museum’s soaring grand hall where  guests schmoozed over cocktails and where museum chemist Carolyn Leap mesmerized patrons with her experiment setting $5 bills afire, except, they did not burn due to her “secret” solution. Contributing to the out-of-this-world ambience, mixologists created galactic cocktails with liquid nitrogen.

In keeping with tradition, the silent auction was rich with gemstones and related jewelry, geodes, fossils, crystals and one-of-a-kind opportunities. This wealth of offerings contributed to the night’s proceeds of $850,000.

As the dinner bells chimed, the 500 guests made their way across the museum to find their dinner tables where City Kitchen would serve a space-themed menu with a chocolate explosion dessert that had guests cleaning their plates. Then it was on to the dance floor where Infinite Groove inspired the human gyrations.

Seen: Jim Jordan, John Weinzierl, Laura and Bill Wheless, Jeanie Kilroy Wilson and Wally Wilson, Laurie and Reed Morian, Merrill and Joe Hafner, Kim and Dan Tutcher, Amy and Curtis Hartman, Melinda and Sam Stubbs, Bobbie Nau, Cynthia and Tony Petrello, Stephanie and Ernie Cockrell and Hallie Vanderhider and Kendall Montgomery.

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