Kirksey Gregg, 59, was born in Crane, Texas, a dusty little town known more for its oil than its gardens. Although he grew up around arid lands and little rainfall, Gregg fell in love with flowers, and his family was more than willing to support his passion.
“I’ve always loved flowers,” Gregg admits. “When I was 15, my grandfather bought me a flower shop.” And while he was quite content in West Texas, he wanted to move to Houston to manage a friend’s flower shop. Today, he co-owns The Ballroom at Bayou Place in Downtown Houston as well as Kirksey Gregg Productions, a full-service special events company he operates with his husband, Shay Calhoun-Gregg.
“We opened The Ballroom in 2016,” says Gregg, who has two partners in the venue. “At 15,000 square feet, it is the largest privately owned event space in downtown.” On the second floor of the Bayou Place entertainment complex, The Ballroom overlooks the Theater District through its floor-to-ceiling windows and from its gorgeous balconies. Conventions, galas, and private parties are typically held there, and it’s also a popular wedding venue. Even the Greggs were married here.
“[We had our wedding at The Ballroom] the week after Harvey,” Gregg says, referring to the 2017 hurricane that wrecked Texas. “We had 500 guests and a full sit-down dinner. It was fabulous. We did all the flowers; it was quite the floral scene! We had these huge screens with impressionist paintings that changed for each course.”
Gregg loves weddings as much as he loves flowers, and he has seen plenty of both during his 22 years in the events business. “I love giving joy to other people,” he explains. “If I can’t make a bride and her mother cry tears of joy, then I haven’t done my job.”
But things are different this year. Almost all big events have been canceled due to the pandemic. Even the Houston Ballet is taking its annual Nutcracker Market fundraiser online this year—a blow to Gregg, who loves the ballet and has done design work for the event for 17 years.
“It’s a shame,” he says, “because Houston Ballet really needs that money.”
Like the Houston Ballet, The Ballroom is also suffering.
“We are coded as a restaurant, so we could hold an event for 2,000 people right now,” he says. But nobody’s throwing parties like that during the pandemic, and the dip in business has affected those working both the front and back of house. “You don’t realize all the people behind the scenes who are needed to put on a special event,” Gregg explains. “And we’re all banding together to get through this.”
However, as bookings for 2021 skyrocket, he’s optimistic that the Ballroom will overcome and remain a beacon for many. “People are ready to get out! After the trauma is over, people want to get out and celebrate.”
For more information on The Ballroom at Bayou Place, visit theballroomatbayouplace.com.
WEDDINGS & EVENTS
Best Place to Pop the Question
Eleanor Tinsley Park
Finalists: Pearl Bar, Williams Tower Water Wall
Best Place to Rent/Buy Formal Wear
Al’s Formal Wear
Finalist: Men’s Wearhouse
Best Wedding Officiant
Finalists: Kirksey Gregg Productions, Billy Whitaker
Best Wedding Cake Bakery
David Alcorta Catering & Custom Bakery
Finalists: Cake Fine Pastry, Sweet Nation, Who Made The Cake!
Best Wedding/Event Catering Firm
David Alcorta Catering
Finalist: Devour Houston Catering
Best Wedding/Event DJ
Darker Side DJs & Karaoke
Finalists: B&B Entertainment, Brad Janacek
Best Wedding/Event Florist
Rexberry Luxury Events
Finalist: Perfect Petals by Geo
Best Wedding/Event Live Music/String Quartets & Bands
Finalist: Divisi Strings
Best Wedding/Event Photographer
Finalists: David Troung, D Jones Photography, Kirk Surber Photography
Best Wedding/Event Planner
Finalists: A Day to Remember, Rexberry Luxury Weddings, Wedding Bliss Events
Best Wedding/Event Venue
The Ballroom at Bayou Place
Finalists: Crystal Ballroom at the Rice Hotel, Madera Estates, The Parador
Best Wedding/Event Videographer
Finalists: Jay Clarke Films, Kirk Surber Photography
TRAVEL & VACATIONS
Finalists: Emirates, United Airlines Best LGBT Cruise or Tour Company
Finalist: Concierge Travel
Best Local LGBTQ Travel Agency
Best LGBTQ Honeymoon Destination
Walt Disney World
Best LGBTQ Travel Destination
Finalists: Costa Rica, Key West, Provincetown
Best Local Hotel
Le Méridien Downtown
Finalists: Magnolia Hotel Houston, Sam Houston Hotel
This article appears in the October 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.