Buccaneer Days and Coronation Nights - The Bend Magazine

Buccaneer Days and Coronation Nights

Las Doñas de la Corte is a decades old tradition that pays homage to our past and helps define our future.

By: Alexis Mays  Photos by: Rachel Benavides

Buccaneer Days conjure up images of bull riding, cattle roping, and cowboy boots. It is also a time when art, fashion, and the community come together for Las Doñas de la Corte. The Corte will present its Coronation on May 3rd at the American Bank Center’s Selena Auditorium.

Betsy Carrell, President of Las Doñas de la Corte, explains how the organization began adding a new dimension to Buccaneer Days 65 years ago. “The King’s Men organization was formed to honor civic leaders in our community and to help honor Coronation participants with special parties,” says Carrell. “And that’s still the tradition today.”

Ruth Welch, an original member who is now 97 years old, recalls the early days. “I was president of Las Doñas, my dad was king, and my son was chancellor,” states Welch, who is still a member. “Las Doñas is about bringing the community together,” she adds, illustrating how, from the beginning, the goal of the event has been to enrich the city. This event is also well known by its ornately designed gowns based on the court’s theme. This year, 22 duchesses will be presented under the theme, “The Court of Magnificent Decorative Arts.” Local or regional artists create the art for the gowns, and four houses of seamstresses bring the designs to life.

“It is all about interior design through the ages,” Carrell describes. “Alexis Hunter is the Wardrobe Chairman this year, and the gowns and trains are exquisite. Their influences range from the earliest known interior designs to more modern, iconic designs. What is wonderful is that they are easily recognizable and used in homes and buildings today.” Avery Cohen is one of the 22 who will present a living art piece during the Coronation. It’s her third year to be involved with the group and first as a duchess. “It’s such a fun way to connect with the community,” she gushes.
Helping facilitate the event is extremely rewarding for Carrell, particularly because of the many ways it benefits the community. Las Doñas de la Corte partners with the Coastal Bend Community Foundation to raise matching funds on the Day of Giving, providing tens of thousands of dollars for local charities.

Everyone is invited to join the group in honoring members of The Court of Magnificent Decorative Arts and in supporting the Day of Giving at www.cbcfoundation.org. After the parade, the gowns will be on display at the Art Center of Corpus Christi from May 9 to June 3. The exhibit, free and open to the public, allows residents to get an up-close look at the iconic gowns. From the artists to the duchesses to the nonprofit organizations, there is no doubt that Las Doñas de la Corte has created a ripple effect felt throughout the entire Coastal Bend.

“To have had so much participation in it, it’s just great to see the community and its people come together,” Welch reflects. “I am very proud of Las Doñas.”
Tickets to the coronation go on sale April 5th at the American Bank Center Box Office and online.