Five thousand shoppers can't be wrong. That's how many poured into NRG Center Wednesday night for the biggest charitable fundraiser of the year — Houston Ballet's Nutcracker Market.
They came in chauffeur-driven cars. They arrived in vans large enough to haul off cases of marinara sauce from Donne di Domani and trunk loads of the fab holiday decorations from Paul Michael Co. Some even arrived so early in order to beat the crowds that they set up tailgating parties. As Houston Ballet managing director Jim Nelson noted of the splashy preview party, "It's the largest holiday cocktail party on the planet." We would have to agree.
"All the wonderful, traditional themes had been taken and then I heard Jimmy Buffett's 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' and that was it."
The four-day holiday shopping extravaganza, which continues through Sunday afternoon, took a different turn this year, steering away from traditional holiday themes and embracing a tropical ambiance. Welcome to Nutcracker Market in Paradise. Think pink flamingos, palm trees and surfboards vying with Santa's elves and reindeer.
As chair of the 34th annual market, Cecilia Campbell explained, "All the wonderful, traditional themes had been taken and then I heard Jimmy Buffett's 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' and that was it."
She amped up the tropical ambience by flying in several beautiful orchid leis for a few of her key deputies. Enhancing the mood further, the first 1,000 shoppers through the gates received faux leis. That merry throng was welcomed by preview party chairs Kristy Bradshaw, Allison Flikerski and Beth Wolff.
With more than 300 merchants from across the country, the shopping opportunity is so enticing that many visit the market several times during its run. Last year, the market did a record $19 million in sales. Stay tuned for the results of this year's ultimate shop til you drop event.
Among those filling their shopping bags on this night were Philamena and Arthur Baird, Rachel Regan, Chita Johnson, Vanessa Sendukas, Lynda Transier, Scott Evans, James Calaway, Krista Moser, C.C. Conner and DL Groover, Kari Parsons, Lenny Matuszewski, Pam Morse and Dan Pastorini and Denise and Sam Malone.