Only the appetizers were tiny at the Texas State Society’s Black Tie and Boots inaugural ball held on the eve of President-elect Donald Trump’’ swearing-in. Beyond the finger food, everything was big, big and bigger.
Hair. Gowns. Stetson hats. And the crowds — the massive Gaylord Hotel on Thursday night swelled with 11,000 Texans and Lone Star wannabes. Three stages and dozens of entertainers — from the Lake Highlands High School Wranglers, billed as “a country & western dance and stunt team,” to the Beach Boys, who headlined the event — kept the crowd two-stepping.
Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.), the president of the state society, was brimming with home-state pride — after all, his party is one of the hottest tickets in town, boosted by the prospect of ushering in a new GOP administration. And Texans are well-represented in the Trump Cabinet, with Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and Rick Perry as energy secretary (both men were somewhere in the cavernous hall — did we mention it was big?).
“We’ve got the hats and the belts and that’s enough to give you a good start,” Williams said when asked about the draw of the Texan party. He had popped outside the entertainers’ “green room” to chat, and over his shoulder, we spied legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight (eschewing the black-tie dress code for a sweater and hiking boots) chatting up Beach Boy Mike Love.
Williams said he even welcomed the non-Texans who are playing the part for the night. “We’re willing to swear ’em in for the night,” he says.
But Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex,) later offered a tip for discerning the real deals from the faux: “We have the best boots.”
It was ostensibly a bipartisan affair, but the crowd was clearly excited about the Trump era.
Larry Gatlin, the singer for the twangy Gatlin Brothers, debuted a few lines of a new song he said he’d started, to wild applause: “Hil’ry said she lost because she didn’t get her message out/she didn’t win her presidential bid/Hil’ry said she lost because she didn’t get her message out/But I believe she lost because she did.”
And there was a sign that we’re in a new era, one where economic stimulus is the order of the day. Stalls lined the concourse linking the ballrooms — and this was no mere Trump-merch kiosk, but real shopping. You could buy furs (a short vest was $290), Kendra Scott jewelry (a $150 cocktail ring, perhaps?) and Luchesse boots (a pair embroidered with the Black Tie and Boots insignia started at $750 for the basic model).
Perfect for that Cabinet meeting.