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Man & Woman of the Year, Wildflower Gala and Austin Fashion Week

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

HEALTH: Contest to raise the most to help the most. “The Man and the Woman of the Year” is not a remake of a Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn movie. It is contest to see who, among 12 candidates, can raise the most money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society of South Central Texas. This year at the AT&T Center, the contestants and friends complied $556,228. The Man of the Year, Randy Cubriel, hit $100,000, while the Woman, Dana Smith raked in $70,637. Runners-Up at this surprisingly dressy event were Trace Hight and Samantha Hale. The record is still held by last year’s Woman, Ashley Cop, vice-president of marketing at a financial firm, who collected $154,000 for the local chapter of the national Society. (Often, the contestants are either cancer survivors or personally connected to one.)

NATURE: Blissful evening at a blissful locale. Even without the new, interactive Luci an Ian Family, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center rivals Barton Springs for the natural soul of Austin. Just the ripe smell of earth is enough to makes it feel like home. As if some angel looked down on the gathering, the Wildflower Gala, which raises money for the center, was blessed with glorious weather again. It’s among the most simple and unaffected benefits, even with the powerful friends of the Johnson family in attendance. Only three elements: Silent auction of nature-inspired art, very short speeches and a long dinner with compelling conversationalists. (Among the glossy names present: Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, Jennifer Robb, Ann Butler, Kim Heilbrun and Becky Beaver.)

STYLE: ‘Project Runway’ comes to Austin Fashion Week. We still watch “Project Runway” and its spin-off “Under the Gun,” despite the overstretched concepts and semi-staged personal dramas. According to Austin Fashion Week founder Matt Swinney, the runway show at the Austin Music Hall was the largest such reunion of the TV series’ designers. It was a polished affair, even though the first set of models were hardly old enough for elementary school. Among the collections, Melissa Fleis’ was classy, mod, focused and a little fantastical. Korto Momolu’s was tightly controlled and superbly fitted with playful fabrics. (Hometown hero — and genuine good guy — Daniel Esquivel aroused the most response from the audience with his highly varied structures in saturated colors.)

CHARITY: Dressed in black for the White Party. There is not a prettier pride of young Austin lions and lionesses. The White Party for LifeWorks formerly filled the lush gardens around Green Pastures restaurant. More recently, they’ve gone urban up on the skyline terrace at Long Center. (Still no donor has named the center’s most beloved element.) Early in the evening, young adults in white streamed across the bridges from downtown to attend this shindig decorated with skeletal cabanas and a large dance floor that made the celebrants appear to levitate on a cloud. They stayed for hours and looked fit enough to revel well into the morning. (Special thanks to Brett Barnes, who created the party, for urging me to attend late after three other events, and to Kevin Smothers, who kept me engaged with vivid chat well into the cool evening.)