Martha Washington Society Gala

South Texas Debs Make Entrance

By Lance Avery Morgan
Photography By Greg Harrison

Laredo recently confirmed big things were happening in the city with this year’s debutantes making their annual bow.  The Society of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant & Ball continues to thrive and grow more popular every year.

The Colonial Ball, where the girls in grand dresses debuted was held in the city’s Civic Center. It is part of a citywide festival of Washington’s Birthday Celebration, which takes place each year near the first US president’s special holiday. Not only does The Society of Martha Washington helps Laredo present an image of “racial and national harmony” by working in conjunction with the Princess Pocahontas Council and the Abrazo Children, but also has attendees who are notables from all over Texas.

In addition to its philanthropic aspect, the organization chooses two prominent members of Laredo society to don costumes to portray President George and Martha Dandridge Washington. This year it was Oscar Moreno and Anita Fansler Averill. The debutantes and their escorts who are presented have family in the Society or are invited guests. Membership into the Society is exclusive, yet there are no racial or ethnic discriminations and Laredo’s elite consists of bi-cultural residents. Melissa C. Cigarro is the President of the Society of Martha Washington for 2012 where she and all the committees worked tirelessly to produce this year’s extravaganza.

What is it like from the audience’s point of view, you may ask? The participants portray contemporaries based on the story line, which changes every year to honor the President and his First Lady. What a spectacle it is since each deb wears an elaborate handmade colonial-era dress that is the outer shell over a corset, bloomers, and layers of petticoats.

Linda Leyendecker Gutierrez remains the official dressmaker for the pageant and she enthuses that yards of fabric are used to make these elaborate costumes… silks, satins and velvets from all over the world. The intricately designed gowns are adorned with beads, lace and ribbon to create the perfect deb dress, weighing up to 80 pounds. Of course, all of the pomp and circumstance is worth it for the debutantes, families and their once-in-a-lifetime experience.


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