BEST OF FORT BEND — 2015
Annual Recognition Of Fort Bend County’s Champions Of Community, Shopping, Dining And More!
Best Parks Youth Ranch Event – Cowboy Up
Cowboy Up, the annual fundraiser for the Parks Youth Ranch, was a huge success this year with over 600 tickets sold! Presented by the Fred and Mabel R. Parks Foundation, the event raised over $225,000 in proceeds. A highlight of the evening was the Carl Favre True Believer Award given to the St Laurence Social Concern Ministry. Pictured are supporters Bob and Carole Brown.
Best Literacy Event – Reading Between The Wines
Like the two previous events held by the Literacy Council of Fort Bend County, the 2015 Reading Between the Wines held at Safari Texas Ranch in February was a great success, raising more than $103,000 for literacy programs and services. Guests listened to captivating authors, tasted dishes from local restaurants and chefs, and took part in a lively auction.
Best November Golfing Opportunity – Happy Thanksgolfing Classic
This annual event held at Sweetwater Country Club in November helps homeless Fort Bend families. Not only is it a great chance to get in a last game of golf before the holiday season, but it is also a time to help Fort Bend Family Promise – the county’s only nonprofit agency committed to helping homeless families with children get back to self-sufficiency. The organization is supported by 16 area churches.
Sugar Land Superstar – Raivyn Hearne
For the Sugar Land Superstar finale in August, Raivyn Hearne, 21, chose to sing the Donny Hathaway version of A Song for You. She can consider it her good luck charm: she won first place as the 2015 Sugar Land Superstar against 10 contestants who performed in front of a Town Square crowd that spilled into the street.
Raivyn, an Army reservist, will perform with the U.S. Army Soldier Show, which is a live, variety performance featuring the Army’s best singers and dancers. The show travels to bases around the world between May and September 2016. She then plans to move to Los Angeles to work at being an independent artist.
Best Way For A Dad To Surprise His Daughters – U.S. Army Sgt. David Blalock And His Daughters
What would have been a typical Friday morning at Baines Middle School turned into a morning of elation as U.S. Army Sergeant David Blalock surprised his daughters, Caitlyn and Camryn, with his return home from Afghanistan. The girls, in grades 6 and 7, had no idea their dad had returned home after a year-long deployment. The school principal helped him work out his plan. The emotions ran high among the three family members as they raced along the school hallways to each other’s arms. With only a short distance between them, the girls cried out, “Dad!” and the reunion began.
Best Rockin’ Earth Day – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle And Rock
Sugar Land’s Earth Day Celebration held in April in Sugar Land Town Square covered all the eco bases. Events included environmental activity booths and performances, interactive games and educational booths from local organizations. Reptile Shows by Texas Snakes & More and a poetry contest hosted by Keep Sugar Land Beautiful were also part of the fun.
Best Teen Chefs – Foster Hs Culinary Arts Team
Foster High School’s Culinary Arts team finished second at the Texas Regional ProStart Invitational in February. The team of Victoria Castro, Dalilah Garza, Adrianna LaMothe, Baron Scott and Dalia Wehbi competed against 22 other culinary teams, with the top six teams advancing to the State Competition, March 26-28, in Waco. Jocelyn Aventurado is the Culinary Arts teacher at Foster.
Best Fundraising Event With Crazy Headwear – Mad Hatter Adventure
In October, Fort Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels hosted its major fundraising event of the year – the Mad Hatter Adventure – at Safari Texas Ranch. The evening casino night was a change from the usual luncheon event. With the help of generous donors and community support, the organization serves more than 1,000 hot, nutritious meals daily to senior adults, aged 60 and over, who are typically unable to prepare their own meals. Funds raised during the Mad Hatter event will ensure that nutritional and social needs of seniors are met in 2016.
Best Local County For Employment Growth – Fort Bend County
Fort Bend County ranked ninth in the nation’s largest counties for percentage increase in employment from September 2013 to September 2014, according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows that Fort Bend achieved an increase in employment of 5.1 percent, well above the national average of 2.0 percent. The county also outperformed the Texas overall employment growth of 3.1 percent.
Best Place To Browse Art – Sugar Land Art Center
This nonprofit promotes individual creativity in people from children to seniors through open houses, art lessons in all media, working studio space and a gallery to showcase your art. Workshops are given by local and nationally acclaimed artists. If you agree with the Sugar Land Art Center that art awareness improves our world, then come take advantage of its resources to grow in the arts.
Best Automotive Accessories – Allout Offroad
Make your jeep or truck stand out from the rest with AllOut Offroad’s selection of accessories that will enhance your ride and increase your gas mileage. The store has five locations in Greater Houston and can modify all makes and models of trucks, jeeps, SUVs and more. Technicians will help you modify your truck just exactly the way you want it with bed covers, bed liners and other bed accessories, body and lift kits, and wheels and tires.
Best City Of Sugar Land Events – Award Winners
Events put on by the City of Sugar Land earned awards from the Texas Festivals & Events Association and the International Festivals & Events Association: Christmas Tree Lighting, Star Spangled Spectacular, Memorial Day ceremony, KidsFish, Eggstravaganza and Art in the Park. Find out more about Sugar Land special events at sugarlandtx.gov.
Best American-Mediterranean Food – Red Oak Grill
Here you could eat strictly American cuisine such as burgers, baked potatoes and grilled chicken. But then again, you could let one of several lamb dishes, shawerma, kabob and gyro plates tempt you with their Mediterranean flair and fresh, healthy ingredients.
Best Fundraiser For Autism Advocacy And Community Assistance – Fort Bend Junior Service League
Fort Bend Junior Service League (FBJSL) had another amazing Spring Fling in 2015, held at Constellation Field. Beneficiaries are the FBJSL Community Assistance Fund and Hope For Three, which provides family assistance and financial aid to families with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Fort Bend County. Honorary Chairs were Mary Favre, FBJSL Sustainer President, and Carl Favre. Memorial Hermann Sugar Land was title sponsor.
Best Sugar Land Rotary Event – Fall Classic Charity Fundraiser
The goal to raise more than $150,000 was set for “Escape to the Rain Forest,” the Fall Classic Charity Fundraiser hosted by Sugar Land Rotary and title sponsor Classic Chevrolet Sugar Land in October at Sweetwater Country Club. Guests enjoyed a happy hour, fantastic food, fellowship, a live auction and bid board, and a raffle to win an eight-day package to tropical Costa Rica. All funds raised will support the Rotary Foundation’s international initiatives and multiple Fort Bend charities, including Fort Bend Literacy Council, Fort Bend Women’s Center, The Arc of Fort Bend County, Boots and Badges and Fort Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels.
Best Alternative To Chain Pharmacies – Compounding Shop Pharmacy
Compounding Shop Pharmacy has been opened since 1982 with great customer service and a family-oriented business approach.
Best Broadway Fundraiser – Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation’s Annual Founders’ Ball
The Founders’ Ball held by the Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation (SLCAF) raises funds each year for the historical Sugar Land Auditorium (SLA). The auditorium’s story is very much a part of the history of Imperial Sugar Company and the early settlement of Fort Bend County.
The auditorium now has events Thursdays through Sundays year-round that the group produces, presents or partners on. The lobby art gallery features the works of local artists. SLCAF also collaborates with other community groups to raise funds and promote awareness.
With more efforts in the works, the 2015 Founders’ Ball was a vital cog in the wheel of revitalizing Sugar Land’s past.
Best Community Grant For Autism Programs – Ecolab Foundation
Texana’s autism program received a $5,000 community grant from the Ecolab Foundation. The funds went toward a playground at the Children’s Center for Autism in Sugar Land. The specific activities and design elements in the new play structure target specific learning objectives: playground skills, social skills, imaginative play, natural environment training, and promote fitness and wellness.
Best Benefit Home Tour – Casa Christmas Home Tour
A Fort Bend holiday tradition, the CASA Christmas Home Tour offers guests the opportunity to view beautifully decorated homes in Fort Bend County while helping to raise needed funds to support Child Advocates of Fort Bend’s programs. Homes this year included those in Sienna Plantation and Imperial.
Proceeds from the Christmas Home Tour help CAFB advocate for the needs of abused and neglected children in this community. Through its two programs, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), the agency touches the lives of more than 400 young victims each month.
Best Food Bank Fundraiser – Fort Bend Empty Bowls
The 2015 Fort Bend Empty Bowls honored Fort Bend ISD for its enormous contribution to the East Fort Bend Human Needs Ministry’s programs for 25 years. The event is the food bank’s single largest fundraising event. As happens each year at this event, guests were served a simple meal of soup and bread as a reminder of families in Fort Bend County who don’t have enough food to eat.
Fort Bend ISD students organizations, faculty and staff have given much in donations and volunteer time. “There’s no way to count how many tons of food we’ve been given,” said Vicki Coates, the ministry’s executive director.
Most Fun For Families Living With Autism – Strike Out Autism
In April, fans converged on Constellation Field for Strike Out Autism, a free event for more than 100 Fort Bend families living with children on the autism spectrum. From the pre-game meet-and-greet to the autograph session, kids were thrilled to meet the Skeeters baseball players. Romping on the baseball field and “pairing up” with a buddy kept the youngsters busy.
This year a silent auction featured the artwork of Grant Manier, a young artist living with autism. He has been honored with awards for his Eco-impressionism and contribution to the autism community. The day has become a favorite outing for children with autism, thanks to a community partnership with Hope For Three, the Sugar Land Skeeters, Honorable Judge Hebert, Fort Bend City Mayors and hundreds of volunteers.
Best Ymca Golf Classic – Ymca Golf Classic
The three Fort Bend County YMCAs hosted the ninth YMCA Golf Classic, sponsored by Fort Bend Toyota and Sterling McCall Lexus. The event at Pecan Grove Country Club raised funds for summer outreach programs. It included a best ball scramble format and several on-course competitions with the winners announced at the dinner and awards cermony.
Best Star In The Classroom – Brittany Mayland
Oyster Creek Elementary School kindergartener Izabelle Paul nominated her teacher, Brittany Mayland, for a “Star in the Classroom” award. In a surprise visit of a lifetime, Houston Texan Cecil Shorts III joined Amber Magee of First Community Credit Union in surprising Mayland with the award in recognition of making a positive impact in the lives of students.
Shorts credited many of his teachers for his success and reminded students to “stay focused so that you’re able to do amazing things.”
Best Political Tacos – Torchy’s Tacos
If the countdown to the November 2016 elections is whetting your appetite, bring your multi-party friends to nosh on the political party tacos at Torchy’s Tacos. The Independent is of course vegetarian, with hand-battered and fried portobello mushroom strips on a flour tortilla. The Republican gets meaty with grilled jalapeño sausage also on a flour tortilla. The Democrat starts with shredded beef barbacoa on a fresh corn tortilla. Like with any political discussion, you can make it as spicy as you want. Just don’t start a food fight.
Prestigious Student Music Award – 2015 Houston Young Artists
The members of Le Octet were chosen as 2015 Houston Young Artists after two grueling rounds of auditions in January by the nonprofit organization, Houston Young Artists Concert. Le Octet performed Mendelssohn’s “Octet for Strings” at Rice University Stude Concert Hall. The idea of forming the string octet group was born from member Ethan Le’s desire to perform Mendelssohn’s work, which is seldom seen on stage due to the difficulty of assembling eight fine musicians. The members are from Cinco Ranch, Clements, Dulles and Bellaire high schools.
Most Rocking Fundraiser For First Responders – 2015 Boots And Badges Gala
The annual benefit, Boots and Badges Gala, held at the George Ranch Historical Park again helped raise funds to provide emergency financial assistance grants to Fort Bend County emergency first responders who suffer injuries, illness or other disasters that create financial hardship not covered by insurance or other assistance. The volunteer organization Behind the Badge Charities, in association with Motorola Solutions, sponsored the event that featured dinner, music, and live and silent auctions.
Behind the Badge Charities has awarded more than $173,000 in financial assistance to personnel from police departments of local cities and school districts, along with the Stafford Fire Department, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Bend EMS and the Rosenberg Fire Department.
Best New Pizza Place – Blaze Pizza
Blaze Pizza in Sugar Land serves fast and fast-fired artisanal pizzas, freshly made salads, blood orange lemonade and s’more pies. Guests customize one of the signature pizzas or create their own to be sent to a blazing hot open-flame oven for about $8. The fresh dough is made from scratch to produce a light-as-air, crisp crust.
Best Fort Bend Fair Awards – Fort Bend County Fair Association
The Fort Bend County Fair Association received eight awards for its marketing and communication efforts from the Texas Association of Fairs and Events. The awards included four first-place honors and a third-place honor for the dancing and singing efforts in the Meghan Trainor parody, “It’s all about the fair…Fort Bend County.”
Additionally, Susan Sillavan-Forbes was named 2015 Fair Manager of the Year for demonstrating superior leadership and professional achievement from among a statewide market of fairs, festivals and events, including the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, Rodeo Houston and Rodeo Austin.
Best New Boutique – Rock 2 Royal
This family-owned, Galleria-like store carries women’s, plus-size and tweens clothing, and rain boots, jewelry, handbags, evening clutches, and various gifts for the home. Trunk shows feature items seen on the Red Carpet.
Best Handcrafted Jewels – Vintage Pearl
The hand-stamped, personalized jewelry and keepsakes are one-of-a-kind pieces. Each piece is handcrafted from start to finish.
Best Suicide Prevention Fundraiser – Out Of The Darkness Community Walk
In September, more than 500 people from throughout Fort Bend participated in the fundraising walk that supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org), the Out of the Darkness Community Walk.
The Fort Bend walk is one of more than 360 Out of the Darkness Community Walks held nationwide. The walks united more than 100,000 walkers nationally and raised more than $12 million for suicide prevention efforts. The funds support local and national suicide prevention and awareness programs working to reduce the annual rate of suicide by 20 percent by 2025. The walks are also about raising awareness of and reducing the stigma around suicide and underlying mental disorders.
Best Veterinarians – Dr. George Woodley and Dr. Helen Knox at First Colony Veterinary Clinic
One of the animal lovers who nominated these doctors attests to the special kind of care the whole staff gave his dog throughout her life and also at the very end of it. They had treated the 16-year-old Border Collie when she had had Parvo as a puppy, had stitched her up when she’d jumped out of the car window and helped see her through her first stroke and got her back to almost 100 percent. That morning, when our reader knew it was time to let her go, he knew which veterinarians to trust.
Best Christmas Lighting – No Fuss Lights
Tired of testing strings of lights that sometimes work? Tired of climbing up shaky ladders? This year, a reader let No Fuss Lights put up the family’s Christmas lights. “They installed the lights when they said they would and will take them down and store them after Christmas. I wish I’d called them years ago. It was truly a No Fuss experience,” he said.
Best Culinary Festival – Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair
The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair attracts more than 10,000 food-and wine-lovers annually. The five-day event in April consisted of notable events that allowed all manner of foodies — from bonafide gourmands to everyday eaters — to indulge in fantastic fare, sensational spirits and some of the finest wines around: the VIP Kickoff Dinner, informative wine and spirit seminars, the On the Rocks Bartender Challenge, the Grand Tasting, the Sip & Stroll and the Bistro Brunch.
Through its partnership with the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, a team of student leaders is selected to assist in the planning and execution of the festival. The students — from the leadership team to the more than 200 volunteers who assist in event operations — are a big part of what makes the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair successful.
Best 10th Annual Road Trip – Fort Bend Cares
Fort Bend Cares’ Road Trip through the French Countryside in February was magnifique, with French-inspired entertainment and food booths by 12 well-known local restaurants. The organization has raised more than $1.2 million over the last 10 years to support nonprofit organizations that serve disadvantaged children and youth in Fort Bend County. Presenting sponsors were Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital and Spectra Specialty.
Best American Cancer Society Fundraiser – Couture For A Cause
The American Cancer Society’s Couture for the Cause “A White Haute Affair,” presented by Wealth Design Group, was held in October at a beautiful private Sugar Land home. Each year this event raises thousands of dollars for cancer programs and services as well as for the upcoming Hope Lodge Houston. The event was centered around a dazzling style show produced by Lenny Matuszewski and featured guest models who are either currently fighting or have won their battle against cancer.
Best Jewelry Store – Loggins Jewelers
Captivating collections and fine designers: Loggins Jewelers offers unparalleled selection and service. This holiday season and beyond, the look is Loggins.
Best Doggone Fun Run – Fort Bend Cares
Meet Rain, a black lab mix who was adopted from Sugar Land Animal Services. Although underweight and infected with hookworms and heartworms upon arrival at the shelter, she is healthy now and loving life with her family. As Fort Bend Cares Spokesdog for the Doggone Fun Run held in April at Sugar Land’s Memorial Park, she was pawsitively pumped about the event that raises funds to support nonprofit organizations that serve disadvantaged children and youth in Fort Bend County. This year proceeds also went to the Sugar Land Animal Services shelter.
The Doggone Fun Run includes a competitive chip timed 5K Run (without dogs) and a 5K Run and a 1 mile Fun Run/Walk (with or without dogs), so there is something for everyone and every dog.
Best Tree Care Specialists – Arbor Care, Inc.
These professional arborists saved one reader who has a small fortune in large palm and Italian Cypress trees. When they didn’t quite look healthy, Arbor Care correctly diagnosed that a worm was causing the branches to turn brown. It treated for the problem, and fertilized and trimmed the trees. “Arbor Care came out and treated my trees at a fair price,” writes this fan. The Italian Cypresses and palms now look great!
Best Charitable Shopping Opportunity – Sugar Plum Market 2015
The November 2015 Sugar Plum Market really “Let it Snow” with more than 100 fabulous vendors from across the state. Funds are raised from its Preview Night that sells out each year and the regular three days of shopping held at the Stafford Centre. Proceeds from this shopper’s paradise benefit local Fort Bend County charities.
Best Pageant Winner With A Passion – Regina Crafter, Ms. Texas America
As Ms. Texas America 2015, Quail Valley Middle School health teacher Regina Crafter of Missouri City was honored to represent the pageant. “I am excited about the opportunities that will present themselves as I promote my platforms on breast cancer awareness and youth mentoring,” she said. Crafter’s passion for spreading breast cancer awareness derives from being a survivor since 2007.
As the mother of a teenage son, Andre, Crafter hopes her actions will prove to him that people can make a difference in the world. During her 27 years in education, she has received numerous awards and honors, including Lake Olympia Middle School’s 1998 Campus Teacher of the Year, a 1998 FBISD Secondary Teacher of the Year Finalist, and Who’s Who Among American Teachers for 2005 and 2007.
Best Blue Suede Shoes Fundraiser – Fort Bend Boys Choir
Blue Suede Shoes were rocking at the Fort Bend Boys Choir’s Gala Dinner and Auction event in February at Safari Texas. Elvis tribute artist Ralph Elizondo, Texas’ No.1 Elvis impersonator, led the evening and performed a musical set.This casual, fun-filled evening raised funds to help support all music programs of the Fort Bend Boys Choir, including scholarships.
Best Hot Yoga Studio – Afterglow Hot Yoga
Everyone feels the warmth at Afterglow Hot Yoga. The certified instructors care deeply about your success. Afterglow offers a wide variety of classes, from the traditional 26 postures to vinyasa, power vinyasa, hot core, HIIT with weights, hatha yoga and more. Located on Highway Six at Sienna Plantation.
Best Organic Cold-Pressed Juicery – Texas Fresh Juice
TFJ’s delicious and nutritious organic cold-pressed juices easily substitute for a meal, with over 2 pounds of produce in each 16-ounce drink. Their cleanses can help you lose weight, regain mental clarity and improve overall well-being. TFJ juices use no heat or pasteurization. Drink fresh. Feel Good. Located on Highway Six at Sienna Plantation.
Best Shop For Gifts And Home Décor – The Magnolia House
Take a deep breath, relax, and experience the wonderland that is the Magnolia House in Missouri City. The shop’s services include design portfolios by in-house designers; custom floral designs; framed art, tapestries and old world accent furniture; and custom bedding, draperies, faux painting and murals.
Best Dragon Boat Sighting – Gulf Coast International Dragon Boat Regatta
Dragon boats were sighted once again in October on Brooks Lake. More than 40 teams took part in the Gulf Coast International Dragon Boat Regatta, including paddlers from all across the United States and Canada. This event is free to the public and a great family event, with more than 5,000 people attending to cheer on the hard-working teams.
Best Moonlight Masquerade – Fort Bend Educational Foundation
The Fort Bend Education Foundation’s elegant masquerade ball with the theme “Moonlight Masquerade in Venice” celebrated its successes and served as a thank you to the community for its generous support. The gala was held in February at the Sugar Land Marriott Town Square.
Best Universally Accessible Playground – At First Colony Athletic Park
Sugar Land’s new 5,500-square-foot playground serves as a place where all children can play together in a safe environment and includes new “inclusive” equipment with longer platforms and ramps, and bonded rubber surfacing that makes it easier for wheelchairs and children with disabilities who need a more even surface to access the equipment. A total of $400,000 was collected from public and private sources to build the playground.