July Fourth revelers head to Santa Fe

SANTA FE, N.M. — Move over Aspen. This Southwestern mecca of art, classical music and culinary superlatives is nudging into that stratospheric popularity zone that the posh Rocky Mountain resort has enjoyed among Houstonians for two decades.

Sure, Santa Fe has long been on the map of savvy vacationers and second-home buyers, and a number of Houstonians have relished its special allure for years. But recently it seems that the attraction has been catapulting to new levels.

The tony Las Campanas resort development has drawn a number of newcomers to the Santa Fe scene. You can hardly walk through the clubhouse without running into someone from H-town. Financier and golfer Gerald Smith and wife Anita, there with their family over the Fourth of July, are building a home on one of the club’s two golf courses. Randall Onstead already has one. Port Commissioner and University of Texas Regent Janiece Longoria and businessman Steve Lasher have had a beautiful home at Las Campanas for several years and are spending much of the summer commuting between their casa divine and Houston.

Even beyond that gated community, there is plenty of Houston action in Santa Fe. Attorney Vidal Martinez and wife Debbie have just purchased a townhouse in the heart of town, where they entertained Lillian and Ted Fehrenbach of San Antonio over the past week. Ted, author of Lone Star, is Texas state historian emeritus. Even actor Tommy Lee Jones spent the Fourth in Santa Fe, having dinner with friends at Geronimo — his weaving exit revealing either a back injury (perhaps from his polo playing) or an evening of being way overserved.

Helen and Alan Buckwalter had their three kids here for the Fourth as did Kathy and Jeff Love. Among Houstonians savoring Santa Fe’s cool weather and equally cool cultural climate were Lynda and David Underwood, Cathy and Ed Frank, Connie and Byron Dyer, Meg and Hartley Hampton and Patti and Steve Rabin.

Most of these were on hand for the Fourth of July festivities at the Las Campanas country club that included an alfresco buffet, a Santa Fe Symphony concert and fireworks. Much like the Houston country club scene but much cooler — temps in the 60s — and no mosquitoes.

The opera scene

Last weekend saw a handful of Houston Grand Opera patrons making the season-opening festivities for the Santa Fe Opera, a draw for culture vultures.

The 2009 HGO ball chairs Donna and Robert Bruni of San Antonio and 2010 HGO ball chairs Denise and Philip Bahr joined the company’s director of patron programs Rudy Avelar and music director Patrick Summers in a round of weekend parties.

They attended the black-tie gala at the El Dorado Hotel and the opening performance of La Traviata at the open-air theater. The patron festivities included a black-tie dinner in private homes before the performance, a benefactor dinner on the opera grounds and a mariachi brunch in the gardens of the famed Nedra Matteucci Galleries.

Summers will be in Santa Fe for a while as he is scheduled to conduct the world premiere of The Letter, starring Patricia Racette, in late July. That same week an HGO patrons group will head to Santa Fe for loads of music and socializing.
By SHELBY HODGE Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
July 9, 2009, 3:38PM