The first full week of partying in March was bookended by two fun Baton Rouge Symphony events. Between them were more cultural events that broadened my horizons.

‘Star Spangled Salute’

The World War II Museum’s Victory Belles and emcee Bill “ Bob Hope Johnson set the perfect tone for this year’s Mad Hatter’s luncheon and style show. The Crowne Plaza was awash in red, white and blue for the March 7 “Star-Spangled Salute,” which honored veteran Symphony League member Betty Schwartzberg.

Once again I had the honor of helping to judge the hat competition — no easy task. My fellow judges included K athy Miles, first lady of LSU football; Gordy Rush, general manager of Guaranty Media; Rosalind Tuminello, of City Social; Cary Bryd, BRSO executive director; and Mad Hatter Hypolite Landry. After much deliberation our winners were Mary Kay Bertaut, Most Whimsical; Debbie Kleinpeter, Most Beautiful; Kitty Calabrese, Best Ensemble; and in a tie for Best Group, the Liberty Belles and Victory Gardeners.

Another highlight of the day was the style show featuring spring and summer fashions from Ballins, Lukka and Raffaele and hair and makeup by Verde Beauty Studio.

Then there was the drawing for the Ippolita Rock Candy mother-of-pearl and diamond-toggle bracelet from Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry. The lucky winner was Dan Phillips; well, some woman in his life will be the lucky one.

Jan Wells served as Mad Hatter’s chairwoman. Assisting her were committee members Anne Marie Bradford, Catherine Van Hook, Carole Fredrickson, Jennifer Poe, Susan Love, Kathy Hendrick, Amy Phillips, Shannon Lewy, Edy Koonce and Karen McCullen.

‘Beyond Mozart’

Chef John Folse and his crew must have worked day and night to get the grounds of White Oak Plantation in shape for the symphony’s 10th annual Mozart celebration on March 13 after the week’s torrential rains. The gardens couldn’t have looked lovelier and Mother Nature couldn’t have been kinder. It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon to stroll the property and enjoy the culinary creations of Folse and staff while sipping the event’s signature cocktail — the Goldrush. Like most of the evening’s menu, it featured ingredients from White Oak.

The 10th anniversary was the perfect occasion to honor Sandy and Gary Young, who have supported this particular symphony event since its inception. “You’ve brought so much to this event, including the people you brought with you,” said maestro Timothy Muffitt in recognizing the couple. “You introduced people to the symphony, and the symphony to them.”

As a memento of the occasion, he presented Sandy with a music box that played Mozart’s “Turkish March.”

The Mozart portion of the festivities was supplied by a string quartet from the Baton Rouge Symphony — violinists Borislava Iltcheva and Aaron Farrell, Jennifer Cassin on viola and cellist Molly Goforth. They performed Mozart’s String Quartet No. 17 in B-flat major, better known as “The Hunt,” which inspired the painting by artist Gail Lloyd , featured in the live auction.

It was purchased by Folse, who teamed up with Muffitt for one of the liveliest live auctions. These two are a hoot. They’re also productive, raising more than $28,000 for the symphony.

Kudos to Co-chairwomen Sue Rainer and Brooke Dynes for this revamped event. You hit out of the park, ladies.

River City Jazz

The week started off celebrating the 10th anniversary of another musical event — the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s River City Jazz Series — March 9 at the Old State Capitol. It featured an amazing performance by internationally renowned violinist Regina Carter, who performed several selections from her new CD, “The Making of Southern Comfort.”

Several of them are new arrangements of field recordings from her grandfather’s native Alabama, which have been preserved by the Alabama Music Commission. The finale, “I’m Going Home on the Morning Train,” was dedicated to the late Derek Gordon, who, along with local jazz aficionados Zia Tammami, Leo Hamilton, Cornelius Lewis, C.J. Blache, Bill Grimes and the late Alvin Batiste, started the Jazz Series. By the conclusion of her show in the House Chamber, many of us commented it felt like we’d been to church.

Sitting on the back row, I had the joy of watching Grimes and Hamilton as they grooved to the music, and father and daughter Carl Jacobson and Sofia Dieutto dancing.

In welcoming attendees and thanking them for their support over the past 10 years, Arts Council Executive Director Renée Chatelain shared the good news of the Jazz Series’ reputation. “When I talk to others around the country about the arts in Baton Rouge they ask me, ‘Isn’t that where the River City Jazz Series is?’ They know about us.”

Grimes added his New Orleans jazz peers are jealous Baton Rouge has the series. “They don’t understand why they don’t have it instead,” he said.

Brush with Burden

My cultural exposure continued with the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden’s annual “Brush with Burden” juried art exhibition and sale, chaired this year by Kathleen Meares. Out of 128 entries, the winners were, in the art category — Patricia Ryan’s “Hydrangea,” first place; Jo-Ann Adams’ “Blooming Bromeliads,” second place; Wendy Hazey’s “Fishing,” third place; Betsy Neely’s “French Quarter Workday,” honorable mention; and merit awards to Ralph Marino’s “Summer,” Claudia L e Jeune’s “Just Ducky,” Charles Smith’s “Break in the Weather” and SuEllen Lithgoe’s “Pears.”

Winning in the photography category were Charles Haynes’ “Cruciform Pole,” first place; Alana Perino’s “Memphis,” second place; Bruce Schultz’s “Fig Leaf with Bug, Fern & Ryegrass,” third place; Mary Ann Caffery’s “The Edge of Consciousness,” honorable mention; and merit award winners Kathy Reeves’ “Great Egret & Chicks,” Sandee Soloway’s “Princess Theater,” Ellen Case’s “Windswept” and Donna Futrell’s “Stormy Silo.”

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