What a week! On one day I had breakfast and lunch with the same group of folks, and on another, I rubbed elbows with Louisiana's six living governors. We celebrated an amazing group of volunteers at a luncheon and got to meet the newest group of Star Dancers.
I'm not sure who was having the most fun last Sunday when Gov. John Bel and Donna Edwards rolled out the welcome mat to the Governor's Mansion for a homecoming celebration for former Govs. Edwin Edwards, Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal and their families as well as the families of the late Govs. Jimmie Davis, John McKeithen and Dave Treen. The guest list also included special staff members to the former governors and friends. It was one special reunion, with all the hugs, kisses and smiles you'd imagine!
As soon as we entered the mansion, we saw the beautiful, handmade, cypress rocking chairs with the names of all the governors who called the "new" mansion home and the dates of their years in office. Duplicates were given to five living governors as a gift from the Governor's Mansion Foundation, and they were quick to start breaking them in during the formal part of the evening. That was when they all shared some of their favorite mansion memories, which Donna Edwards is going to have compiled in a book entitled "Memories of the Mansion." Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne gave additional comic relief with "the Cliff Notes" version of his "Why Louisiana Ain't Mississippi" spiel.
The McKeithens were the first family to occupy the mansion, which was built in 1963. "We were like 'The Beverly Hillbillies' when we all moved in here," quipped one family member.
Caroline Roemer spoke for her father, who suffered a stroke a couple of years ago. She shared how her dad left her a note on her bed when they first moved in reminding her that the mansion was the house of the people "not a Holiday Inn."
Blanco shared how the trustees who work in the mansion were so kind to her and husband Ray Blanco's grandchildren. That sentiment was echoed by Jindal, whose children were possibly the youngest to ever call the mansion home. He soon found himself having to reassure his eldest that Santa would know which of the 14 Christmas trees to place her gifts under and that the State Troopers would definitely not stop him from coming inside.
Ten of Baton Rouge's go-getter volunteers were honored for their tireless efforts at the Emerge Center's 46th annual Volunteer Activists Awards Luncheon Nov. 10 at the Renaissance. The awards were presented by former activists.
This year's honorees included Dennis Blunt, 100 Black Men, who received his award from John Spain; Melissa Campbell, Battle Against Autism and On River Time, who received her award from Sandi Robinson; Camilla Ford, Quota and Rotary clubs, who received her award from Bobbie Carey; Perry Franklin, Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Baton Rouge General Hospital, who received his award from Gwen Hamilton; Cate Heroman, author of "Helping Children Rebound" and ExxonMobil's STEM Leadership Advisory Panel, who received her award from Barbara Freiberg; Jerry Jolly, Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center and Huey & Angelina Wilson Foundation, who received his award from Donna Saurage; Janet Olson, The Foundation for Woman's and Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation, who received her award from Rose Marie Fife; Susan Rolfs, St. James Episcopal Church and BREADA, who received her award from Adrienne Moore; and Monique Scott-Spaulding, Rotary and Cristo Rey Franciscan High School, who received her award from Mary Beth Chevalier.
Dave Roberts was also recognized, but was stranded in Costa Rica and unable to make the luncheon. Former activist Scott Berg accepted on his behalf.
Earlier that morning, I had breakfast with some of the same folks at Galatoire's Bistro for Capital Area United Way's 54th annual Brotherhood-Sisterhood Breakfast, which honored Gwen Hamilton and Randy Nichols. Welcoming everyone was CAUW President George Bell.
Hamilton is the manager of community affairs at New Schools for Baton Rouge and has a long history of involvement with organizations such as the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Volunteers in Public Schools and Leadership Baton Rouge.
"Gwen has enjoyed many titles in her life," said her presenter, Donna Saurage. "She has worked to break down the barriers that divide our community, and prevent us from working and living together in harmony."
Nichols is the executive director for Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless and serves on the boards of the Louisiana Housing Alliance, Louisiana Human Services Data Consortium and Capital Area Reentry Coalition.
"Randy is a quiet, unassuming giant in our community," said his presenter, Joe Simmons.
In keeping with tradition, the breakfast ended with everyone holding hands and singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth."
Stop No. 3 on Friday was a reception at Tyler & Possa law firm announcing 2018's Dancing for Big Buddy Star Dancers. The 12th annual event is being chaired by Kris Cangelosi and Monique Scott-Spaulding (yes, the same one honored earlier as a Volunteer Activist).
So, drum roll please, the line-up includes Antoinette Patterson, Gina Laird, Melissa Terito, Johnnie Hunt Bond, Dawn Starns, Kristy McKearn, Brandon Saho, Mathew Laborde, Steve David, Michael Uffman, Steve Sherman, James Peltier and, couples Manisha and Rubin Patel and Lisa and Francisco Zatta.
I'm coming back as a judge and will be joined by 103.3's Jeff Johnson, a former Star Dancer, and some lucky person to be named soon. Circle April 28 on your calendar; you're not going to want to miss this!
The last stop on Friday was Baton Rouge Gallery, which was holding its annual Kinetics live art auction, featuring works by artist members like Judi Betts, Rosemary Goodell, Jacqueline Dee Parker, Van Wade-Day, Paulo Dufour, James Burke, Randell Henry and Charles Barbier.
If you were looking for some out-of-the-box Christmas presents, this was the place to be.
I also had the chance to do a little shopping at Trianon's annual Holiday Event on Nov. 9 at the L'Auberge Event Center. Trianon is a dedicated group of women who for many, many years have raised funds for the ARC of Baton Rouge.
As we sipped Trianon's famous coffee punch, we shopped the various vendors, bid on the tempting silent auction items and caught up with friends. As lunch was served, guests were treated to a style show featuring the latest fashions from RussoRoss boutique. That made us want to go shopping for ourselves.
Waiting on a Cure
The partying picked back up later that afternoon when I caught up with the celebrity waiters taking part in this year's Waiting on a Cure benefiting the Bella Bowman Foundation. Having outgrown their previous location, this year's fundraiser moved to Walk-On's at Towne Center.
It proved a good move, as more than $70,000 was raised — $10,900 by the team of Chad and Troy Aucoin. Coming in a close second was the team of Sarah Smith and Brad Duncan, who raised an even $10,000. The "Most Spirit" award went to Vegas dancers Lauren Hill and Shannon Mahon.
All Red Affair
From Towne Center, I headed over to the Capitol Park Event Center for Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge's Celebrate the Family All Red Affair. This year's honored families included Carl Dabadie Jr., Chad Dudley, the Revs. Rachel and Mike Haman and Lemelle and Eric Keller. They were introduced by emcees Bill Profita and Kevin Gallagher.
This was a quick stop because there were two more to go.
Red Rooster Bash
Next up was Rural Life Museum's Red Rooster Bash. A chance to slip on your jeans, step into your boots and enjoy a night of casual, relaxed fun all to benefit this 400-acre jewel tucked away in south Baton Rouge. This was yet another opportunity for folks to get some holiday shopping done, as this is always an eclectic silent auction.
Then there's the live auction, conducted by auctioneer Brian Fourroux. It featured 21 items including a hand-crafted cherry table by woodworker Mearl Harville, Indian and Persian rugs and an airplane ride at sunset with Dr. Anthony Stephens.
The Thursday finale was Karnival Krewe de Louisiane's Coronation Social at Gerry Lane Cadillac, which had been transformed into Emerald City — the theme for next year's Mardi Gras ball. It was the final promenade of last year's royalty — Queen Lisa Lane and King Julio Melara, who crowned the new king and queen — Chambliss Harrod and Dee Keller. They will reign at the krewe's Mardi Gras Ball Jan. 19 at the Raising Cane's River Center.
Also introduced were ball Captain Terrie Sterling; Duchesses Mary Beth Chevalier, Samantha Fisicaro, Krystal Howell, Catherine Katzenmeyer and Mary Raven; Dukes Henry Barham, Victor Gregoire, Mike Kimble, Scott Nyboer and Nial Patel; and debutantes Marla Aronson, Olivia Cooley, Kathleen Elofson, Jeanne Favret, Catherine Fuller, Madelyn Graves, Alexandra Martin, Hillary Melara, Abigail Mock, Adele Poché, Claire Soileau, Adair Talbot, Sydney Trainor and Jeanne Wood.
David Manship and Alice Lamar rolled out the welcome mat for a party thanking supporters of Cancer Services on Nov. 8. This was the first night of a cool snap that made outdoor events in the Capital City oh so enjoyable. It was fun to visit with Ann Guercio, who is in charge of this gathering every year, interim Executive Director Connie Caldwell, Belva Dewey, Frances Bennett, Suzanne Sexton, Ralph Stevens, Debbie Heroman and, of course, our gracious hosts.
I only nibbled on a few of the yummy hors d’oeuvres at the Cancer Services party because my next stop was the annual Quota Club Thanksgiving Potluck Supper hosted by Jean Gatz. I love that this group of women let me join them for this special evening every year. Not only is food always delicious but the company is delightful. I get to catch up with long-time friends and meet new ones.
In fact, everyone got to meet the club's newest members — Laurie Allen and Mary Anne Young. That's another tradition at this dinner. New members are sworn in and officially welcomed into the fold. So, thanks, ladies, it was a fun night!