Fifteen years ago, Richard Bruner and Michael Koenig realized they were not seeing many of their friends as often as they liked. Life happened – post-college jobs, marriage, family responsibilities and relocations.
“Most people get together between Halloween and Christmas, maybe New Year’s Eve,” Bruner says. “But holiday travel is usually about family, and we were going too long between seeing friends we knew from college or previous jobs. We thought something in the middle of the year would be ideal for a get-together.”
Their 105-year-old home, which is the original Barnes Homestead, is a beautiful setting for an alfresco gathering. Bruner readily admits that July in Oklahoma is not the best time for an outdoor party; still, he and Koenig wanted an indoor-outdoor affair at their home that incorporated the stately wrap-around porch in front, the beautiful dining room and the spacious back yard and deck.
The original list contained 20-25 names, and over the years, the guest list has expanded to the point that the 2017 Midsummer’s Night Drink Party — as they named it — had nearly 80 guests. Elemental Coffee owner Laura Massenat was a guest for the first time at the 2017 event, and she remembered being very comfortable, even outside.
“Maybe we just had a good day, but it was very pleasant,” she says. “There was plenty of shade, iced drinks and these beautiful umbrellas hanging upside down.”
Koenig explains the umbrellas as both practical and aesthetic complements: “As one entered the party, they walked through a canopy of Chinese umbrellas, hanging upside down on the front porch. This immediately gave the guest a pop of color and welcomed them to the party.”
For more immediate cooling, guests also received a hand fan. This is traditional at all the midsummer parties, not just a touch for last year, and the fans are typically matched to the color palette. According to Bruner, the theme always remains “midsummer cocktail party,” but the colors, décor and even a signature cocktail change every year.
“We did a vodka cocktail last year, made with fresh orange juice,” he says. “We also provide iced cucumber water, frozen grapes and a variety of chilled foods to help keep people cool.”
Guests are free to congregate in any of the three locations — front porch, dining room and back yard — but most of the food is inside, at a table typically filled with sweets and pastries from La Baguette and chilled finger foods that Bruner and Koenig prepare, to “keep the personal touch,” Koenig says.
Last year, Koenig smiles, “The back yard was alive with greenery and lit chandeliers hanging from the trees.” There are slight modifications to the yard, which is already equipped with a spa and palm trees in an homage of sorts to Houston, a city that both men love. Most of the furniture is repurposed, collected from local antique shops and estate sales, and Koenig said they mix the décor inside and out to “keep the Bohemian feel.”
And in the midst of it all, their guests — their friends — are happy to raise their glasses in a toast to summertime get-togethers.