The historic Round Top Rifle Hall was the scene for the second ever fundraiser gala in support of the community’s esteemed performance venue — the Round Top Festival Institute. Dubbed The Festival Hill Un-Gala, the down-to-earth affair was brimming with local charm including an oompah music welcome from the Round Top Brass Band, a steak and potatoes dinner put together by Royers Cafe, and a theatrical backdrop created by a pair of homegrown artists.

Strings trio Whiskey Witch set the mood for the evening, playing a classical set from the stage in front of a large-scale polyptych depicting the stunning interior of the Festival Hill concert hall. Measuring seven feet tall and about 14 feet wide, the piece by local artists Bachman + Petrie was created with oil enamels, an acrylic wet wash, gold leaf and amber shellac. The homage was a striking reminder of the importance of preserving the mission of the local icon, which brings notable performers to Round Top throughout the year and serves as an incubator for young musicians during the six-week-long Summer Festival.

Net proceeds from un-gala donations and auctions will be applied to scholarships for students selected to attend the 2024 Summer Festival. The evening’s highest auction bid of $40,000 came in for a private dinner and concert with world renowned pianist and Festival Hill founder James Dick. In a surprise move, JB and Jamie-Len Royer of Royers Cafe stepped out of the kitchen to offer a cooking class with all the fixins’ for their famous “Great Steak.”

The unexpected donation brought the crowd to its feet. Competitive bidding for the prize resulted in a doubled offering with two separate Royers cooking classes going for a total of $6,000.

 The Festival Hill Un-Gala event raised more than $410,000 in total, which will cover 51 of the 90 individual Summer Festival scholarships granted by the Round Top Festival Institute this year. 

The institute has awarded three thousand scholarships over its 53-year history, serving music students from colleges and universities all over the United States and around the world. That includes Festival Hill’s new program director Iverson Eliopolous, who treated the crowd to a performance of Bach’s Prelude to Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major during dinner. 

“My deep gratitude to you all for your every help and spreading the world about Festival Hill,” Festival Hill founder James Dick says. “I want you all to come see these student performances often this summer, because we have a stellar festival planned. We have students coming from five to eight different nations and from all over the country.

“And you know what happens? They go back and spread the word not only about Festival Hill, but also about the wonderful people they meet here in Round Top.”

To find out more about Festival Hill and the Summer Festival, and to get tickets to performances, visit here.

Festival Hill officials also thanked the Round Top Rifle Association for use of the hall and event sponsors Dulce Vida Tequila, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, William Chris Wine, Still Austin Whiskey and Brown Distributing. Kudos also go out to event underwriters at Marburger Farm and Market Hill. The event’s success owed much to the excellent service by the WeTendBar staff from La Grange, Royers Cafe, Gayle Stallings and the team at FUNauction, and the event coordinators at Big Time Creatives.

Round Top Roundup: Event co-chairs Reenie Collins and Linda PlantAmy and John BoneLeslie and Wayne Penello; Round Top Real Estate and Bybee Foundation board members Jacquelyn and Steve Distler; Festival Hill board members Susan and Richard AshcroftJanet and Richard Schmidt; Festival Hill board members Jerry Herring and Brian Becker along with Joan Herring and Norelle BeckerPam and Kelly BrooksMelissa RobertsEllen Hart and Cinda Palacios.