A busy weekend of parties got underway Jan. 12 with Opéra Louisiane's Sing & Swing karaoke auction.
Sing & Swing
At the start of this fun-filled night, the gauntlet was thrown down by the celebrity singers, each one proclaiming they'd claim the title as best karaoke singer. But when all the monetary votes were counted, Iberia Bank's Susan McCarter's rendition of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" had her atop the leaderboard. She billed herself a "karaoke virtuoso" and didn't let the crowd down.
Another crowd favorite was Jay Ducote, of Bite & Booze fame. Admitting he couldn't carry a tune, Jay swung for the fences in a comical rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," complete with backup singers. It brought down the house!
Ned Fasullo, whose Big Band provided the musical accompaniment, quipped he wasn't sure how to follow Jay's performance until he saw Whitney Vann and Leonard Augustus take the dance floor draped in full-length mink coats for a steamy performance to Joe Cocker's "Leave Your Hat On."
Of Moving Colors Artistic director Garland Goodwin Wilson enlisted help from friend Bettsie Baker Miller and a group of her talented dancers in performing "Hey Big Spender"; Rob Wise, CEO of ITinspired, confessed to being "Addicted to Love; and Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge CEO Renée Chatelain and buddy Jim Urdiales enticed a spontaneous kick line with their performance of "New York, New York."
So much fun! But I had to leave before it was all over to join Krewe Mystique at its annual King Cake Party.
I got to Oak Lodge Reception Center just as Krewe Mystique's mock court led everyone in the traditional second line. In order to serve on this court, you have to get the baby in one of the many king cakes served up by krewe lieutenants attired in their chef outfits. The two who get the golden babies reign as king and queen. This year that honor went to Tiffany McCaughey and husband Byron. They were sponsored by Stephanie and Brian Shedd and escorted by krewe Lieutenant David Peré.
Rounding out the royal court were Vicki and Micah Ellis, sponsored by Nancy Taylor and escorted by Lieutenant Tony Pittman; Mary and Danny Wusterbarth, sponsored by Renée Toepher and escorted by Lieutenant Roger Marcombe; and Erin LeJeune and Grant Herrin, sponsored by Allison Oubre and escorted by head Lieutenant Henry Peré.
The ladies of Artemis went traveling back in time for their 17th annual soirée Jan. 13, and they graciously invited me along. Queen Stephanie Possa was breathtakingly regal and King Don Bergeron cut quite the dashing figure as they promenaded through the Raising Cane's River Center Ballroom before several hundred guests. I had a blast visiting and dancing with my hosts Melanie and André Uzee, Marci and Charles Blaize, Janet Boles, Gladys and Jim Brown, Richard Atkins, Mona Worington, Linda Thomas, Meg and Don Gerald, Beverly and Corky Thompson, Leonard Augustus, Eric Guerin, Karen and Bill Profita, Joe Possa and Chad Kenny-Possa, Brad Blanchard, Cheryl Callerame, Kim Morgan, Chris Farr, Judy Moore Vendetto, Toni Chenevert, Rosemary Jeansonne, Cheryl Bourg and Jennifer and William Wells.
It was a frigid morning for the annual Louisiana Marathon, co-sponsored by The Advocate. Lou Hudson Coulter, our vice president of advertising, and husband Chip live on the race route, so that's where we partied and The Advocate live-streamed the race. Gary Miller, whose day job is sales and operations director, served as our "reporter," interviewing sports chiropractic physician Dr. Kelly Ryder; Valerie Lewis with sponsor Lewis Companies; Blaise Calandro with Calandro's Supermarket, which supplied delicious king cakes and a breakfast casserole for the occasion; several race officials; and yours truly.
After I wrapped up my on-air spiel, I headed over to Whitney Vann's home on the LSU Lakes, which is also along the route. All the racers had passed by but Whitney, Kim Bronikowski, William Roy and Tom Sessions were still in party mode when I got there. William and Tom had been at the Artemis ball the night before, so naturally we had to give Whitney the lowdown on the festivities.
Earlier last week, the Huey & Angelina Wilson Foundation's doled out $1 million in funds to Prison Reentry Initiative investments for the new year. The checks were handed out by foundation President Dan Bevan at a luncheon at Juban's Restaurant.
The Prison Reentry Initiative is designed to create a "dramatic reduction" in the number of formerly incarcerated individuals who return to prison and an increase in the cost-savings to the community associated with successful reintegration. This is the third year the foundation has made investments of $1 million in prison re-entry programs.
Programs receiving funds included: Awana Lifeline Prison Ministries, $40,000 for program operations; Capital Area Human Services District, $50,000 for its behavioral health re-entry program; Capitol Area Reentry Program, $30,000 for its Connecting to Success program; Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, $62,000 for Joseph Homes transitional; Church United for Community Development, $40,000 to hire a case manager for its Kingdom Men program; Connections for Life, $30,000 for its Connect2Empower program; Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge, $40,000 for its "Thinking for a Change" cognitive-behavioral curriculum; Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, $50,000 for its Re-Integration Program; and the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, $20,000 for criminal justice church-based advocacy program.
Also, Louisiana Public Health Institute, $25,000 for Louisiana Prisoner Reentry Initiative state-level data development; LSU Foundation, $40,000 for the LSU Law Parole & Reentry Clinic; MetroMorphosis, $40,000 for Baton Rouge Reentry Collaborative; O'Brien House, $68,000 for its "Relapse Prevention for Successful Reentry" program; One Touch Ministry, $70,000 for re-entry housing; Re-Entry Court Services, $40,000 for 19th Judicial District Court's Re-Entry Court Services; Right on Crime, $40,000 for Louisiana re-entry and justice policy; SocialWorx Institute, $25,000 to support the Louisiana Prisoner Reentry Initiative Steering Team Association Urban League, $40,000 for its Career Pathways Program for Returning Citizens; and YWCA of Baton Rouge, $40,000 for its Freedom Project.
The Center for Justice Innovation received three grants for various Louisiana Prisoner Reentry Initiative programs: $150,000 for re-entry services, $40,000 for the initiative and $20,000 for the East Baton Rouge Community Coordinator, who will also develop regional and statewide relationships in the statewide LA-PRI context.