Editor's note: It was another gala year for Houston's society set, with the usual cast of characters (Lynn Wyatt, Hallie Vanderhider) donning their finest for swank soirees. This year's hottest headlines feature sports stars, glam gowns, and a former president's stately visit.
1. Local celebs surprise Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell with big birthday bash. Jeff Bagwell has achieved many a milestone as a member of the Houston Astros. But the Hall of Fame power hitter was completely caught by surprise when he recently reached a particular milestone: his 50th birthday. For his big 5-0, No. 5 was treated to a bash that was crashed by Mayor Sylvester Turner and a host of friends and family, including Craig Biggio, Debbie and Rudy Festari, and all of Bagwell's children.
2. 14 top spring events every Houston socialite must attend. From a festive Mardi Gras soiree, a thrilling Middle Kingdom-inspired fete complete with camel door greeters, to a lively Kentucky Derby party, and an amazing art car parade, CultureMap spotlighted 14 nonprofit events for society types to hit up early in the year.
3. Houston society set in glamorous gowns steal the show at Old Hollywood-themed Opera Ball. Hollywood glam mingled perfectly with the rock star life in true Houston fashion, as locals donned lavish gowns to party with 500 of their closest friends — and ’80s star David Lee Roth — at the Houston Grand Opera’s Opera Ball. The annual event, one of the most highly anticipated each year, raised $1.25 million for Opera Ball.
4. Houston's Women of Distinction shine at glittery Winter Ball. Each year, ABC13’s Women of Distinction annual Winter Ball (benefiting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation) honors women who make a difference in the city. This year's event raised more than $600,000 for the organization that works to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. You’d be hard pressed to find a Hollywood red carpet more glamorous than the 2018 Winter Ball runway at the Hilton Americas Hotel.
5. Houstonians make a splash at new ZaZa's bubbly bash. An invite-only crowd was entertained by a champagne aerialist and a mermaid in a giant martini glass at the grand opening party of the Hotel ZaZa Memorial City. Guests went on a fun scavenger hunt and collected goodies at the end of the night. The VIP list included media celebs such as KHOU's Chita Craft.
6. Stylish Houstonians break a serious sweat at hot new fitness studio. Guests dressed to impress at SWEAT 1000’s grand opening, as the popular South African fitness concept made its official U.S. debut in The Heights. Ana Barron Strouse and Jordan Strouse, the Houston couple who partnered with SWEAT 1000 to bring the concept to the United States, hosted the evening. The South African-themed party featured dancing, DJ spins, and a fun silent auction.
7. Wildly wealthy Texas family returns with celeb-filled $10 million bash. The San Antonio-based Henry family made national headlines with their over-the-top, multi-million-dollar bashes this year. In the spring, patriarch Thomas J. Henry celebrated his birthday with a surprise performance by rapper Cardi B. In August, he flew in Maroon 5, The Chainsmokers, and Enrique Iglesias to perform for nearly 1,100 guests while George Lopez hosted his law firm's 25th anniversary. The mind boggles imagining the Henrys next soiree.
8. Cool kids christen new River Oaks bar at buzzy boss bash. More than 100 residents and guests gathered for the official launch party of The Center Bar by Bosscat, a private, resident-only bar on the ground level of The James luxury apartments in River Oaks. The newly minted bar had residents of the eight-story, 344-unit mid-rise buzzing as they enjoyed complimentary wine, beer, and specialty cocktails.
9. Pitbull rocks Rockets owner's Post Oak Hotel at massive children's charity gala. Can it get more "party" than rapper Pitbull showing up at a Tilman Fertitta event? Some 750 locals were treated to an opulent affair with the Houston Children’s Charity 21st Annual Gala. Highlights included an auction that boasted a BMW M5 and a knockout performance by "Mr. Worldwide" himself. The entertainer who preaches "don't stop the party" closed the night with confetti cannons and show-stopping tunes. A classic Houston society moment: Lester Smith was asked if he and Pitbull were twins.
10. Former President Barack Obama commands laughs and camaraderie at exclusive Houston gala. Those fortunate enough to attend Former President Barack Obama's visit to Rice University were treated to a civilized, frank, and charming political discourse. Obama was joined by former Secretary of State James A. Baker for a discussion moderated by presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham. The two statesmen traded stories and jokes, and love for Former President George H.W. Bush, who would pass away just days later.