What a week Jan. 14-19 was! I’m still on a natural high from all the excitement. Celebrating Mardi Gras with my Apollo boyfriends and witnessing Anthony Ryan Auld win “Project Runway All Stars II” were just the tip of the iceberg, and best of all, the sun finally came out.

‘Games People Play’

That was the theme for the Krewe of Apollo’s Bal Masque XXII Jan. 19 at the River Center Arena. Reigning over the celebration were King Dennis Brewin and Queen Chuck Chesteen. Ball captains for the evening, which honored last year’s royalty ­— John Deshotel and Corey Tullier — were Mark LeFeaux, Ernest Ourso and Bobby Suchman. Special guests included Mr. Apollo Jamie Graves and Miss Apollo Denisha Andrews.

One of the reasons this is among my favorite balls is that it benefits a great cause — the krewe’s AIDS-Crisis Fund. Another is that the costumes are amazing! You can check them out online at http://theadvocate.com/columnists/pambordelon/.

‘Project Runway All Stars’

He won!! Anthony Ryan Auld won “Project Runway All Stars II,” and I don’t think I could be any prouder of this Baton Rouge boy. I can call him that because he’s the same age as my sons and I’ve kind of adopted him since I began following his career via interviews for The Advocate last summer.

About 500 screaming fans, friends and family gathered at the Capitol Park State Museum to watch the season finale Jan. 17. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne presented Ryan with Louisiana’s “Passion for Fashion” plaque. Brother International representatives June Mellinger and Kim Sivillo traveled from New York to present him with their snazziest top-of-the-line sewing machine as well as a check for $150,000. And fellow “All Stars” designer Joshua McKinley came to celebrate with his friend, who announced that he was investing half of his $10,000 fan favorite prize money in Joshua’s tank line.

The evening also featured a sneak peek at both Ryan’s and Joshua’s 2013 fall line and the relaunch of Ryan’s foundation. Now called ROAR, he is teaming up with seniors in LSU’s School of Human Ecology’s Textiles, Apparel Design & Merchandising program to create looks for 21-22 women who have compelling stories.

The last page of my high school yearbook my senior year had a boy and girl walking down a winding road; the caption read, “I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way.” I think that kind of sums up Ryan at the moment, but wherever he goes, we’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, check out the fun online at http://theadvocate.com/columnists/pambordelon/.

Literary award

Author Ernest Gaines paints vivid pictures with his words — many of them about life on the plantations of his native Pointe Coupee Parish. For the past six years, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has honored Gaines by presenting the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence to an up-and-coming black writer who has published a work of fiction during the previous calendar year.

This year’s award was presented to Stephanie Powell Watts for her first book, a collection of short stories titled “We Are Taking Only What We Need,” in a Jan. 18 ceremony at the Manship Theatre. It was an extra special evening for Gaines, who turned 80 earlier in the week. In fact, BRAF Executive Director John Davies led everyone in singing “Happy Birthday.”

“If I’d thought I was going to live this long I would have had more fun in San Francisco,” said Gaines of the place he called home during the 1950s and ’60s. “Instead of living in a small apartment and writing about plantation life in South Louisiana and little old ladies, I’d have been hanging out with the beats and the hippies.”

Not only did the audience get to hear a reading by Watts from her book but it was also treated to a performance by Grammy and Billboard award-winning artists Irvin Mayfield and the “Gaines Sextet.” They performed several selections from Mayfield’s “Dirt, Dust & Trees: A Jazz Tribute to Ernest Gaines,” which was performed in November by the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

Arbor Day

Earlier that day, Baton Rouge Green celebrated not only Arbor Day but its 25th anniversary with a luncheon at LSU’s Lod Cook Alumni Center. Executive Director Diane Losavio welcomed guests and presented this year’s Deep Roots Award to Roby Beardon and Ann Hise.

Incoming board President Sage Roberts recognized outgoing board members Len Kilgore, Missy Rockenbaugh, Charles Dabadie, Karen St. Cyr, Chad Orte, Dede Ferrara and Beardon.

Featured speakers for the day were Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry Mike Strain and Jackie Cole, president of the Galveston Island, Texas, Tree Conservancy. Both spoke of their love of trees. “When you plant that tree,” said Strain, “you put part of yourself into the land.”

Cole outlined the work her group has done since Hurricane Ike killed 40,000 trees. “Trees are a critical part of our urban infrastructure,” she said, adding that Releaf Galveston is a five-year plan that calls for planting 5,000 trees each of the five years. This winter is the third year of the all-volunteer effort.

Baton Rouge Green is also replanting trees, specifically those felled by Hurricane Gustav at LSU’s Burden Research Center. Another 5,000 were planted last year along the city’s Interstates and roadways. New for this year is the City Citrus project in conjunction with Lamar Advertising and Slow Food. It takes the open space under Lamar’s billboards and plants satsuma trees. No wonder we’ve once again been selected as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The night before, Ann Wilkinson rolled out the welcome mat at her home across the river, Poplar Grove Plantation, to host a 25th anniversary celebration honoring past and present board members and executive directors of Baton Rouge Green. I was en route to the soirée but got stuck in traffic and, because I also had to be on hand for the “Project Runway All Stars II” finale viewing party, called in my regrets and stayed on this side of the Mississippi.

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