Fluff your tail and put on your pink ears. Easter Sunday marks the 37th time that LGBT Houston converges for Bunnies on the Bayou, the outdoor cocktail charity party that takes over Fish Plaza downtown.
“The Mother of All Sunday Fundays”, as it’s pegged this year by organizers, started unassumingly enough on Easter in 1979 as a backyard birthday gathering for a few friends. Almost four decades later, the event has bred like, well, you know, to include a guest list that tops 4,000 attendees.
But it's more than just a party. BOTB has raised and distributed more than $500,000 to local charities since its inception. And it's more than just an ablicious parade of flesh for the guys. The ladies take part, too. Among the crew of volunteers helping to pull off the main event – and the parties leading up to it – is Michelle Lindsay (top photo right), an occupational therapist at MD Anderson Cancer Center who joined the Bunnies two years ago. This year, the Texas Tech University and University of Texas Medical Branch grad took a seat on the group’s board as its only female director.
“My role is to bring the BOTB message to the community, especially to the women of the community,” Lindsay said, “and to unite everyone together so that there are even more people mobilized in this effort to have fun, celebrate the season and raise money for local charities.”
This year, a record roster of 22 worthy groups focused on community health, social engagement, pet well being, performance art and gender equality are beneficiaries of the Bunnies’ largesse.
Prior to the big party, Lindsay talked with Project Q Houston about her involvement with Bunnies, her marriage, and the little bundle of happiness that recently hopped into their lives.
What’s your favorite aspect of Bunnies on the Bayou?
The members are so dedicated, especially the board. It literally takes blood, sweat and tears to make this organization run and I am honored to work with these guys. They spend so much time outside of their day jobs to put these events together. The commitment is truly admirable.
How much money does BOTB generally raise each year for its beneficiaries?
We gave away $122,000 last year. This year our goal is $150,000.
BOTB has 22 beneficiaries this year. Is there any concern that having so many beneficiaries might “dilute the pot?”
We judge each application for funds separately. We felt we had 22 great proposals. Not every group gets the same amount. We love to reach as many people as possible. (See the list of 2016 beneficiaries.)
BOTB supports a variety of LGBT charities serving diverse communities but most people think of the event and organization as for men by men. Why did you get involved with BOTB?
My wife, Courtney, previously worked as the LGBT marketing manager for Glazer’s (a Houston alcohol distributer), which was the BOTB vodka sponsor. We went to the check presentation event and I was surprised at the variety of charities they were reaching. Everyone was so friendly and eager to add more female members, so I joined right away.
Why should people come out to BOTB?
Because when has charity ever been this fun? It's a fun way to enjoy downtown Houston (and hopefully beautiful spring weather) with your friends while meeting other new, like-minded people looking to raise money for charities.
Our goal is to get more people involved with bunnies. It isn't a “gay” or “male” event, it is for anyone and everyone who wants to give to LGBT-related charities. We hope to see a more diverse crowd this year and are extremely grateful for the continued support from the community. Cheers!
When and how did you and your wife meet?
We met in the summer of 2008 when I was home from college through mutual friends. We dated for the summer but decided we lived too far apart to continue a relationship. Six months later she drove nine hours to visit me and we've been together ever since.
Why was legally tying the knot important to you?
We had always planned on getting married, but between school, starting a new job, and buying a house there just never seemed to be a good time to plan and pay for a wedding. Then we decided we were ready to have a family and wanted to be legally married first, so we did it.
We had about 15 friends fly to Seattle and witness our courthouse wedding. While we were there we went hiking, did a pedal party tour, and just enjoyed the Pacific Northwest. We had our outdoor wedding at a friend’s beautiful home in Manvel about two weeks later, in October 2014.
And then you got a holiday surprise, right?
We found out we were pregnant on Christmas Eve, less than two months after our wedding. Our daughter, Croix Hazel, was born Aug. 20 and simultaneously I became the happiest parent.
Bunnies on the Bayou 37 is Sunday at 1 p.m. at Fish Plaza at the Wortham Center.