Visit Baton Rouge CEO Paul Arrigo changed my last name to Bordoloni for the Greater Baton Rouge American Italian Association’s Festa last weekend. It was two days of pure fun!
It started off with the magnificent performance by Lena Prima, daughter of the king of swing, the late Louis Prima, Saturday night at the Belle of Baton Rouge’s Capital Atrium. From her opening number, “When You’re Smiling,” to her encore, “Jump & Jive,” she had the sold-out audience enthralled for almost two solid hours. Interspersed with the songs made famous by her dad were stories about growing up in Las Vegas and New Orleans.
She also showcased her talented band — husband Tim Fahey on bass, Larry Sieberth on piano, Thad Scott on saxophone, Mike Fulton on trumpet, Rick Trolson on trombone and Cori Walters on drums — in a rousing rendition of “Sing, Sing, Sing.” Composed by her dad, it was one of the first songs to feature the drums as a solo instrument and Walters made the best of it.
Because no one wanted the night to end, Lena and the gang offered to play the following day at the free Festa. Again, they rocked the house and had people from toddlers to one 86 year old we spotted on the dance floor throughout their set. Lena even played the trumpet in the old Italian number, “Eh Cumpari.” Buddy Karen Profita was the “madolina” and Mayor Kip Holden, decked out in his gondolier costume, was the “tamborina.”
My grandchildren, TJ and Sofia Kennon, joined me in playing the trombone. They also helped me out in the Celebrity Grape Stomp. Thanks to Sofia eating some of the grapes and transferring others from our barrel to the barrel next to us, we came in third place and earned a $300 check for Capital Area United Way. First place and $1,000 went to the team representing Anna’s Grace, a local nonprofit that assists those who have lost a child through miscarriage or stillbirth. The ladies of the Baton Rouge Irish Club came in second and got a $300 check to benefit the club’s annual film festival.
Joining Baton Rougeans for this two days of fun were sizable contingents from the Birmingham, Alabama, American Italian Association and the Shreveport Sons of Italy. There were also smaller groups from New Orleans, Houston, Mississippi and Florida. Kudos to organizers Frank Arrigo, Nicky Dimaio and Phillip Cancilleri and the rest of their committee on hitting this one out of the park!
The weekend began with the preview gala for Forum 35’s Art Melt July 24 at the Capitol Park Museum. This party fêtes patrons, jurors and participating artists. It also provides the first look at the artworks chosen for this annual show. Serving as jurors were local juror Kitty Pheney; regional juror Keene Kopper, of New Orleans, and national juror Patty Ortiz, of San Antonio.
Their choice for winners from among the 66 entries included Brittany Sievers’ “Welcome Mat,” first place; Weston Lambert’s “Pocket Sculpture,” second place; and Morgan Reese’s “Buzios,” third place. Honorable mentions from each juror went to Irene Kato’s “Seek,” Pheney; Robert Dutruch’s “Champignon D’Hui Tre,” Kopper; and Mark Vargo’s “The Expansion & Exploration of Human Experience,” Ortiz.
This year’s Ann Connelly Fine Art Award went to Megan Buccere’s “Souls Release.” Michael Aldana received the Forum 35 Award for his “Deceived by Shadows.”
Metro Councilman John Delgado and wife Stephanie Possa were among those purchasing one of the show’s artworks, a fabulous black-and-white photograph. They told us they purchase a piece every year and have assembled quite the collection over the past 11 years. My favorite piece was buddy David Humphreys’ blue and white dragonfly photograph. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in my budget.
Aside from the Delgados, I enjoyed visiting with Kopper, curator of the May Gallery in New Orleans; Janie Brandt and her friend, Fairleigh Jackson; Colleen Newman; Melissa Parmelee; Amy Horn and Fred Dent.
Mikki Mathews chaired the preview gala; Ellen Fargason was chairwoman of the entire two-night event. Saturday’s arts festival was chaired by Jennifer Dyer and Sarah Moran.
After I left downtown, I popped in for the two-day grand reopening of the Time Out Lounge, which was destroyed by fire almost two years ago. Knowing first hand what it’s like for your life to get turned upside down in an instant, owners Kathleen and Jay Byers asked attendees to bring along a nonperishable food item for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. The barrel was already overflowing by the time I arrived. I know my friends at the Food Bank are going to be excited when the haul is dropped off. Summer is a tough time for those trying to help feed our city’s less fortunate.
After a busy weekend, it was nice to enjoy lunch at Gino’s Restaurant with the executive committee of the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society on Monday. Special guest for the get-together was Hattie Slaughter, who has been working in the kitchen at Gino’s for the past 50 years. She is this year’s recipient of BRES’ Service Industry Award, and she was all smiles as Kevin Kimball and Gino Marino presented it to her. Gino referred to her as “Mama’s (Grace Marino) right hand”; she even knows some of Mama’s secret recipes.
Hattie will be a special guest at the Grace “Mama” Marino Lifetime Achievement Award dinner honoring Bobby Yarborough Aug. 27 at L’Auberge Casino & Hotel.
Others nominated for the Service Industry Award were Sondra Duhon, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse; Kendra Langlois, Mestizo Restaurant; Marie Griffin, Ralph & Kacoo’s; Keo Browning, Mansurs of the Boulevard; and Ronald Moore, Beausoleil Restaurant & Bar.
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