WASHINGTON — OFFICIALLY it was known as the Texas Festival Ball, but it was affectionately known as "The Ball on The Mall" because that's where it was and you couldn't miss it. You entered through a walkway on the Washington Mall lined with bales of hay, saddles, a 700-foot-long split-rail fence, wagons, huge Lone Star flags, and arrived in a Texas-size white tent with a wooden platform for entertainment and dancing the two-step.
Outside, the sun was starting to set orange on the reflecting pool and Lincoln Memorial.
Mesquite smoke from the outdoor barbecues drifted over Texans, former Texans, and those who wished they were Texans at the invitation-only ball, studded with members of Congress, foreign ambassadors, Cabinet members, and the press. Those on the list included: Actor Larry Hagman, star of TV's "Dallas," Dallas fashion designer Victor Costa, Mayor Annette Strauss of Dallas and the festival chairman Georgette Mosbacher with her husband the Secretary of Commerce.
A cheer went up when Gov. Ann Richards appeared in a long purple outfit and told the crowd: "Texans have a tendency to get rowdy, and I know you're not going to make a liar out of me!" Kennedy Center chairman James Wolfensohn, wearing an Australian cowboy hat, black frock coat, and pale trousers, told ballgoers that the festival "is a milestone for Kennedy Center." Over 1,000 people ate over 3,000 pounds of fajitas, sides of beef, pork ribs, roasted pig, and other delights shipped in and prepared by Tex a
s caterer Don Strange.
At both the ball and the opening night party for the movie "Giant," what's been branded "Texas chic" reigned: Hermes silk scarves and blouses with cowboy motifs; stetsons and boots; great hunks of silver jewelry, often Lone star shaped; Texas-proud T-shirts; jeans, long denim dresses, and chunks of turquoise. At the ball especially, lots of elegant cowgirl costumes glittered with rhinestones and fringe.
At the screening of 1956 Oscar-winner "Giant" which starred Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean, the Texas crowd respectfully doffed their stetsons. They laughed hard at some of the lines about Texas in "Giant," based on Edna Ferber's novel. "Being Texan is a state of mind" got a real hoot and holler.
m a real Texas fan" read paper fans for the festival. But it was literally true for festival-goers like former Houstonites Ann Howard and her husband John, now living in the Washington area. They brought their 5-week-old baby Patricia to "Giant" and the Texas Fiesta, but left her home for the Dallas Symphony. "It's been a blast!" says Ann.