Celebrating 100 years of the Red Cross in Louisiana, two groups of debutantes and nine influential women top last week's party patrol.
Gov. John Bel and Donna Edwards teamed up with Lt. Gov. Billy and Cher Nungesser to host the 100th anniversary gala of the American Red Cross Louisiana Region on May 18 at the LSU Stadium Club. Among the special guests were representatives of the military, who received a standing ovation when introduced by 1st Sgt. Robert Harris, Louisiana director of services to the armed forces.
"I hope I don't see the Red Cross until this time next year at your event," quipped the governor.
"Just the presence of the Red Cross is calming," he added, mentioning that 57 of Louisiana's 64 parishes were declared disaster areas last year "even without a named storm hitting the area."
Nungesser shared his personal experience with the organization in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. "There wasn't a time when the Red Cross didn't show up," he said. "There's no place better to thank the Red Cross than in Louisiana."
Of course, we don't celebrate anything without some music and dancing. It didn't take us long to hit the dance floor once the Grammy-winning Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band started jamming.
Sheila Pounders served as chairwoman for the gala. Assisting her were Merri Alessi, Cynthia Bohrer, Rick Bourgeois, Kearney Gay, Randy Haynie, Blythe Lamonica, Desirée Lemoine, Nancy Malone, Gail McQuade, Chris Nuebel, Greg Roques, Ashley Sikes, Celeste Viator and Stephanie York Wagner.
My second stop that evening was the Shaw Center for the Arts, where André Moreau was showcasing his photography exhibit, "Baton Rouge: A Bicentennial View." Breathtaking is the only way to describe André's photographs. He started taking photos as a hobby, but he has an artist's eye and a novice's naivety that allowed him to just go for it.
I'd be hard pressed to pick my favorite from among the 17 images but my top three are the rooftop pool at the Commerce Building, the Mississippi River Bridge at night and the stained glass roof of the Old State Capitol. If you're downtown over the next few weeks, pop into the Shaw Center lobby and check out André's love letter to his hometown.
'Celebrating Our Diversity'
The party hopping got underway at the Atlas Foundation's 14th annual Friendship & Dialogue dinner on May 18 at Boudreaux's. Welcoming guests was board member Fevzi Sarac, who with volunteer Enrah Ceyhan presented this year's awards.
The Atlas Service Award went to the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge and was accepted by the Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade, the executive director. The Atlas Leadership Award went to Mayor Sharon Weston Broome. Speaker for the dinner was James J. Harrington, author of "Human Rights in a Diverse Society."
The fabulous backyard of Gwen and Todd Graves was the setting for the May 17 Charity Ball Association's French Picnic honoring its 2017 debutante coterie. Welcoming the 15 young women and their mothers with the hostess was picnic Chairwoman Mary Stablier.
The debs are Claire Kraemer Couvillion, daughter of Jean and Marc Couvillion; Camille Catherine Delaune, daughter of Susan and Warner Delaune Jr.; Wellesley Jane Dittmar, daughter of Millicent and Edward Dittmar; Alden Elizabeth Guerin, daughter of Debra and Scott Guerin; Kayleigh Elizabeth Hoppe, daughter of Michelle and Scott Hoppe; Mary Elizabeth “Mimi” Keller, daughter of Joan and Jason Keller and the late Kelli Katherine Hornsby; and Olivia Grace King, daughter of Jan and Rodney King.
Also, Anna Claire Lusco, daughter of Missy and Mark Lusco; Adair Christine McCanless, daughter of Dr. Christopher and Anne McCanless; Isabelle Brooks Maxwell, daughter of Susan and Billy Maxwell; Elisabeth Claire Popov, daughter of Jennifer and George Popov; Anna Maeve Reilly, daughter of Jennifer and Sean Reilly; Caroline Groves Schroeder, daughter of Denise and Eric Schroeder; Elizabeth Carolyn Upp, daughter of Dr. James and Susan Upp; and Ashlyn Everett Womack, daughter of Ellen and Milton Womack Jr.
They will be presented at Le Bal de Noël on Dec. 29 at the Crowne Plaza.
Later that afternoon, the Baton Rouge Assembly introduced its debs to the wives of its members and their guests at a tea at the Baton Rouge Country Club. Welcoming everyone were ball Chairman Drew Patty and wife Robin; Cathy Hall, wife of Assembly Chairman Chris Hall; and tea chairwomen Kyler Selser and Tara Weinstein.
The debs include Mary Elizabeth Barksdale, daughter of Drs. Sharon and Phillip Anthony Barksdale; Katherine Landry Barton, daughter of Kellie and Robert Wylie Barton; Claire Elizabeth Cordell, daughter of Holli and Robert Vaughan Montague Cordell III; Mary Casey Countryman, daughter of Shannon and Clay James Countryman; Maggie Keller Dabadie, daughter of Rachel and Joseph Charles Dabadie III; Anna Elizabeth Deshotels, daughter of Cyndi and David Mark Deshotels; Fallon Francis Gerald, daughter of Meg and Donald Francis Gerald Jr.; Margaret Elize Higgins, daughter of Michelle and John Miles Higgins, of St. Francisville; Margaret Ann Kimble, daughter of Molly and Michael Duane Kimble; Mackenzie Theresa Mire, daughter of Dawn and Jeffrey Wayne Mire; Emily Mary Moore, daughter of Brandi and Steven James Moore; Hannah Sebastain Oatley, daughter of Aimée Stuckey Kilchrist and Donald Townsend Oatley II; Mary Catherine Reinschmidt, daughter of Hiam and William Dean Reinschmidt; Sarah Catherine Saurage, daughter of Catherine and Matthew Craig Saurage; Whitney Estelle Say, daughter of Suzette and George Douglas Say; Ysabella Carmen St. Amant, daughter of Dr. Marshall Scarle and Gabriella St. Amant.
They will be presented at the Assembly Ball on Nov. 24 at the Raising Cane's River Center.
In between these two events, I joined a packed Crowne Plaza ballroom to celebrate this year's Influential Women in Business. Speaking at the event, hosted by the Business Report, was Carolyn Rodz, founder and CEO of Circular Board, a "collaborative accelerator for growth-oriented female entrepreneurs."
The honorees included Sarah Broome, founder and executive director of THRIVE Academy; Camille Conaway, senior vice president, Louisiana Association of Business & Industry; Helena Cunningham, founder and CEO, National Housing Consulting Services; Karen Holden, CEO of Providence; Kelly Hurtado, executive director of Our Lady of the Lake Foundation; Julie Laperouse, director of training at Emergent Method; Sonia Perez, president of AT&T Louisiana; Gaye Sandoz, director, LSU AgCenter Food Incubator; and Monique Scott-Spaulding, Jani-King of Baton Rouge franchise owner.
Mardi Gras is a little less than nine months away but that doesn't mean we can't start the celebration a little early. I mean, it takes months and months to prepare for Louisiana's biggest party. So, I didn't even bat an eye when I was invited to attend the royal proclamation party for the Mystik Krewe of Louisianans on the afternoon of May 21 at the home of Gwen and Todd Graves, with whom I joked that I just needed to rent a room I'd been partying at their place so much lately.
The proclamation announcing Todd as the krewe's 56th king and Anna Reilly, daughter of Jennifer and Sean Reilly, as its queen was read by senior krewe lieutenant Ted Jones. Joining in the pageantry were Congressman Garrett Graves, who is chairing the 70th Carnival spectacular, and krewe lieutenants Scott Crawford, Russell Mosely, Ted W. Jones and Kyle Ruckert.
Ted Jones Sr. expressed the krewe's excitement at having a legacy queen. Anna's grandfather, the late Kevin Reilly Sr., reigned as king in 1963. And, Todd and Garrett have been friends since childhood, often causing some confusion as to their roots — they aren't related, just very good friends.
After Garrett led everyone in the official toast, he and the krewe turned the tables on Ted Sr., toasting him on his 83rd birthday. Musician Eric Baskin led us all in singing "Happy Birthday."
From the Graves' home, I trekked to Bin 77 in Perkins Rowe for the Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em fundraiser for the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. Special guests were the "American Sniper" author's wife, Taya, and the wives of the officers slain in last summer's ambush — Becky Anderson, Trenisha Jackson and Tonja Garafola. Also in the crowd were former Baton Rouge Police chiefs Pat Englade and Jeff LeDuff, BRPD Sgt. Don Coppola, Eric Lane, Jay Little, Louis DeAngelo and Beth and Matt Deville. Kudos to Clay Young for organizing this fun, worthwhile event.
If you were a college coed in Baton Rouge in the early '70s, chances are you've been serenaded by Damn Right Chorus. It's an eclectic band formed by Terry Burhans (aka the Rev. Nelson Boax), Al McDuff, Ed Lakin, Frank Holthaus and Doug Payne as a way to impress the girls. Throughout the past 42 years, the chorus has gotten together a few times to sing their signature collection of songs including "Every Man a King," "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road" and "We've Gotta Get Out of this Place." With this being Burhans' 50th Broadmoor High School reunion, it was only fitting that as the reverend, he called for a congregational meeting at Phil Brady's the night before the official reunion. The cherry on top was Mayor Sharon Weston Broome proclaiming May 19 as Damn Right Chorus Day because "East Baton Rouge Parish is privileged to have been the point of origin for a congregation of forward thinking, free living and fun-seeking individuals known as The Damn Right Chorus.” Can I get an amen?
They didn't get a proclamation, but a trio of Lions Club members were feted by their fellow Lions at a dinner at La Contea Italian Restaurant in celebration of their 90-something birthdays. The honorees included 93-year-old Judy Gilliam, 90-year-old Irby Dupont and 95-year-old Raymond Pillow, and their smiles said it all. Unable to attend the celebration was 94-year-old Billy Heroman.
The chefs who'll be creating the six-course dinner on Aug. 24 for the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society's Grace "Mama" Marino Lifetime Achievement dinner honoring former Advocate Food editor Tommy Simmons got together at Beausoleil May 16 to decide who's cooking what. Nothing's more fun that listening to very talented chefs and industry personnel talk food. My mouth was watering by the time I left!
So, here's who will be doing what: Don Bergeron, Bergeron's City Market, passed hors d’oeuvres; Ryan André, City Pork Brasserie & Bar, and David Dispenza, Kitchen & Pie, appetizers; Nathan Gresham, Beausoleil, soup; Joseph Dicapo, Latil's Landing at Houmas House, salad; Joey Daigle, Juban's Restaurant, entree; and Jared Tees, 18 Steak, dessert. Get your tickets now at bres.org.