By Ted Kruckel Posted January 20, 2009, 2:57 PM EST
In Texas, you should know, they go big or they stay home ... where it is big.
So for the Texas State Society’s 11,000-person party on Monday night, organizers chose the Gaylord National Resort across the Potomac in Maryland. Yee-ha!
If you like greeters, and I do, the Black Tie and Boots Ball was your party. First, a dozen or so wannabe Dallas Cowgirls obeyed their matron, took the gum out of their mouths, passed it forward, then marched, two by two to the escalator, to get in position at one of the many entrances. Every third gal greeted me and every fifth winked.
At another entry, pairs of animated young dancers stood in calico and jeans. They were taking turns doing ambitious Cloris Leachman on Dancing With the Stars-style moves. It was my job to run the gauntlet, not get kicked, and return the now familiar winks, this time from guys and gals alike. Fun.
There were two big ballrooms, both longer than a football field, and two smaller ones, and each one had four to five different bands, one of which, Asleep at the Wheel, I had heard of.
Each room had a different theme. I liked the Tex-Mex room with a giant donkey, curiously made out of moss.
In the V.I.P. Maryland Room, Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison (the one with a bee in her bonnet about the borders—I did not see her in the Tex-Mex room) greeted people with better cuisine than I had eaten. The food elsewhere was plentiful—rolled quesadillas, spicy mini meatballs and such—but for me, too greasy. That said, when you are feeding 11,000 people out of chafing dishes—well, what do you expect?
The lighting and staging were elaborate in some places and nonexistent in others. In the Texas State Fair area (which did not sell interesting boots and belts and leather things as I hoped) there was airport-style merchandise, and diners sat in a completely bare hangar-like space eating the same fare so elaborately presented upstairs.
However, the State Fair did boast an Interactive NASA exhibit. The southern charm was so thick you could cut it with one of those blinking pins (pins are big here, I have 11) that NASA gave out—in addition to the stress ball moon rocks and squishy mini astronauts. Irresistible. They were there to promote funding for NASA, of course.
Over there, a mob scene. Neat. A hallway had been closed off, and for some reason this weekend, every time a velvet rope goes up hundreds of people line up behind it, clamoring for information and access. Unfortunately, the media room waas there and I needed to meet Nick from Senator Kay’s office—Texans call everyone by their first name, don’t ya know?—for my tour. Girls in headsets tried to answer questions. Security told people to calm down. Other girls in long dresses whispered angrily to their militarily dressed boyfriends. It’s a wonder no one got shot. A few minutes later, I passed the same area, where the rope was down, and the bottleneck completely gone. I missed it.
The guests had a great time, even though I haven’t figured out how a regular person attends this party. Do you pick one ballroom for the night? Or instead, with elaborate schedule in hand, rush from two-steppers to line dancing, in search of your hoedown nirvana? It took like half an hour to walk anywhere. But along the way people were just thrilled and everyone from the Great State of Texas was just pleased as punch, even if the president is no longer named Bush. Or maybe because he isn’t.
I'm told there was also a rodeo, but one has one's limits.