Last week's party circuit had me having lunch and dinner with LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux and baseball coach Paul Mainieri on the same day. And then I had dinner again with D-D on another night. I gotta say, these two always step up to do whatever they can for our community. Over the years, I had a front-row seat to LSU's head coaches interacting within the community, often out of the spotlight. And, even though Les Miles's grass chewing may have put a touch of voodoo on my Auburn Tigers, I was glad I was there to witness the honoring of LSU's 2007 National Championship team and their coach.
I should have realized my Tigers were in trouble when Gordy Rush did a trivia challenge at the Bengal Belles luncheon the Thursday before the game on the Auburn vs. LSU rivalry. Members of the 2007 National Championship team squared off against players representing this year's team. The fact that the veterans won (and got the coveted Bengal Belle cookies) gave me hope. The Hurricane Game? Really, Derrius Guice? How can you not know that historic 1988 match-up is called the Earthquake Game? Sorry, Gordy, I forgot, what happens at the Belles, stays at the Belles.
Needless to say, the L'Auberge Event Center was packed for the Pink/Teal Luncheon, which raises awareness for breast and ovarian cancer. Aside from the 2007 team members, other special guests included Coach O's mom, Coco Orgeron, and LSU coaches Paul Mainieri, D-D Breaux, Nikki Vargas, Beth Torino, Brian Lee, Dave Geyer and Doug Shaffer, all of whom go above and beyond to raise cancer awareness at sports-related and other community events.
The evening's party patrol began with the Capital Area United Way's Jambalaya Jam, which kicks off its 2017 campaign. An impressive 44 teams showed up with huge pots, propane tanks and all the ingredients for cooking jambalaya to compete for bragging rights in this year's competition, and to serve up the results to raise additional funds to CAUW. When all was said and done, the downtown street party tallied up $57,000 towards CAUW's mission to fight for the health, education, income stability and basic needs of every person in its 10-parish service area. While the Dow Chemical Co. was overall sponsor of the street party, the Baton Rouge General sponsored the VIP tent, where I got to visit with Charlene Montelaro, vice president of development for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank; Beth Veazey and Bill Holman; Alice Miller; and the gang from Guaranty Broadcasting — Gordy Rush, Kevin Gallagher, Scott Robb, Richard Condon, Charles Hanagriff and Anna Betts, who I gave a tip of the hat to for putting up with all these guys.
And now, for the winners. First place went to the team from BASF, second place to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, third to Triad Electric & Controls, and People's Choice to ExxonMobil. The team from ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Plastics Plant took home the prize for best appetizer. Another team from BASF came in first in the Community Games Corporate Division. The Big Buddy Program came out on top in the Nonprofit Division.
March of Dimes
From downtown, I headed to the Embassy Suites for the March of Dimes' Signature Chefs Auction. This year's Ambassador Family were the Mosconas — Matt, Erika and Drew. Drew's plight captured the hearts of dad Matt's many radio fans when he was born in July 2014 with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia as well as a congenital heart disease and a chromosomal abnormality known as 8P23.1 Deletion Syndrome. When he was only 18 hours old, Drew had the first of eight surgeries.
Proceeds from fundraisers like this one allow the March of Dimes to fund research to help babies like Drew survive when the odds are stacked against them, and those who are born too soon or with birth defects.
Lead chef for the night was Kalurah St. Grill's Kelley McCann. The night's other featured chefs included Kaila Kay, Kalurah's pastry chef; Kay and Carey LeGrange, The Bullfish Bar & Grill; Collin Fontenot, Galatoire's Bistro; Natasha St. Pierre Clement, Sophisticated Southern Plates; Danny Winfrey, Fleming's; Dwight Sherman and Steve Tresvik, Embassy Suites; and William Wells, Culinary Productions.
The night also included a live auction that featured dinner packages from several of the night's participating chefs. The auction was conducted by Brian Fourroux. WBRZ-TV's Brittany Weiss was the evening's emcee.
Blue Ribbon Soirée
Things were just getting underway by the time I got to the Renaissance for the seventh annual Blue Ribbon Soirée benefiting prostate cancer research and awareness. And guess who was there? D-D Breaux and Paul Mainieri, who served as honorary co-chairs for this event. D-D is the sister of Janey Nasca, whose late husband Dr. Joel Nasca, who lost his battle against prostate cancer, is the inspiration for the event, along with his friend, the late Larry Ferachi. Coach Mainieri steps up every year to spread the word for men to get regular checkups. And, when he and D-D team up for the live auction, watch out! This dynamic duo can make you part with your cash.
Before they did that, organizers showed a video message from Dr. Oliver Sartor, a prostate cancer research at Tulane University Cancer Center. He couldn't make this year's event because he was in South Africa for a high-powered seminar of fellow researchers.
This year's event was chaired by Kathy and Ricky Lato and Nasca. Committee members included Gretta Blakenship, Joleen Hayes, Chip Kline, Emily Monsour, Ronnie Maranto, Charsya Paul, Gracie Rigell, and Jessica and Daniel Williams.
Wine & Roses
There can't be a better way to spend a fall evening than having a lovely dinner in a rose garden. Well, you could have actual fall temperatures, but, hey, that's life in South Louisiana, and it didn't stop folks from gathering for this year's Wine & Roses dinner Oct. 11 benefiting the LSU AgCenter's Botanic Gardens at Burden Gardens & Museum.
The evening got underway with cocktails on the grounds of the Steele Burden Orangerie. The guests strolled across the street to the tent set up in the rose garden for a scrumptious dinner prepared by Heirloom Cuisine. The night's finale was a floral fashion show showcasing creations by students at LSU's Department of Textile, Apparel Design & Merchandising. The idea for Couture de la Fleur was brought back by gardens director Jeff Kuehny, who saw a show put on by students of the Czech Republic's Mendel University while visiting there to consult on a project.
Lorice Say chaired the dinner, with Jane Perkins as co-chairwoman. Committee members included Leslie Bardwell, Annette Barton, Brenda Baudin, Ginnie Bolin, Judy Foil, Katie Guitreau, Kerry Hawkins, Kittie Hessburg, Barbara Hughes, Mitzi Miller, Penny Miller, Cynthia Nobles, Barbara Quirk and Margo Speilman.
Living the Vision
Olympic Gold medal-winning gymnast Mary Lou Retton reminded a packed room of why we all fell in love with her back in 1984 as she shared her remarkable journey of getting to the Olympic Games held in Los Angeles that year. She was the featured speaker for the Gardere Community Christian School's Living the Vision fundraising dinner Oct. 10 at the Renaissance.
"I'm so excited for my mom to be here," said daughter McKenna Kelley, a member of the LSU gymnastics team and a volunteer at the school, in introducing her mother.
Her introduction was followed by a video of Retton's winning performance, which brought the room to its feet as she made her way to the podium. "I was not supposed to be there," said Retton, of making Team USA.
Six weeks before the games began, she had knee surgery. But her dream was to win gold at the '84 Olympics and so she began training as soon as possible. "I had to take risks, learn my strengths," explained Retton, who got another standing ovation at the end of her talk. "I learned how to seize the moments … When you see the door of opportunity open, go through it … Don't let other people limit you."
Another rousing round of applause erupted when board President Martin Broadnax announced that John Fetzer and Mike Wampold had paid off the building's mortgage. The night's delightful entertainment was provided by a group of students under the direction of music teacher Jennifer Ellis.
Krewe of Artemis
The week began with some of my favorite gal pals at the Krewe of Artemis's Wine & Cheese Party. Nicki Stewart rolled out the welcome mat for this year's get-together, which is where new members are introduced to the krewe. Welcoming everyone were krewe Captain Joanne Harvey, Treasurer Leigh Davis and this year's queen, Stephanie Possa. It was fun to catch up with them as well as with Toni Chenevert, Melanie Uzee and Helen Graf.
Now, this gang is known for having great food at its events but things were definitely kicked up a notch or two. You see, Stephanie's king is none other than caterer extraordinaire Don Bergeron, and he prepared quite a spread for his queen and her friends. Let's hope we stay on this guest list!