The night of March 26 was one for the books with three huge anniversary celebrations taking place downtown. The granddaddy of them all was Our Lady of the Lake Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Gala featuring Huey Lewis & the News.

OLOL Gala

The band opened with their hit, “The Heart of Rock ‘n Roll,” and when Lewis sang “Boston and Baton Rouge” the River Center went wild! From there it was a memorable and fun trip back to the ’80s … “I Want a New Drug,” “If This is It,” “Do You Believe in Love,” “Heart & Soul” and the night’s encore, “The Power of Love,” from the movie “Back to the Future.” The dance floor stayed packed for the entire evening, and Lewis interacted with the audience throughout the first-class performance.

Sister Martha Ann Abshire did a bit a time traveling in her own DeLorean to the first gala with Bob Hope and through the years until she made quite the entrance in that magical car at the gala. It was the perfect way to kick off the evening’s program, which had foundation board Chairman Dr. Bryan Griffith and foundation CEO John Paul Funes updating the couple thousand guests on the status of the free-standing Children’s Hospital (hoping to break ground in 2016) and other news from the hospital.

Women Chefs’ Showoff

Earlier in the evening, my first stop was the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium, where the Iris Domestic Violence Center was hosting its 20th annual Women Chefs’ Showoff. It was also the public debut of the center’s new executive director, Lynne Medley-Long, who took over for interim executive director and veteran board member Sylvia Duke in early February. Both women were sporting smiles at the great turnout.

One of the highlights of the event was the live auction of a date with one of the stars from A&E’s new TV show, “Country Bucks.” V. Watts served as auctioneer. Gordy Rush handled emcee duties. Music was by the Dis & Dat Band.

Participating restaurants and caterers included Acme Oyster House, Baskin Robbins, Beausoleil, Belle of Baton Rouge Casino, Bistro Byronz, Baton Rouge Community College Culinary Arts, Caliente Mexican Craving, Capital City Produce, Chef Don Bergeron Enterprises & Mid city market, Chef KD Louisiana Legends, Cookies by Gail, Courtland’s Catering, Don’s Seafood Baton Rouge, Don’s Seafood Gonzales, Houmas House, Juban’s, Justin Braud, Kristenwood Reception Hall, Louisiana Culinary Institute, Louisiana Egg Commission, Mestizo Restaurant, Oak Lodge Reception, Outback Steakhouse - Jones Creek, Sharing Shores, Chef Celeste - Southside Gardens Retirement Center and Woman’s Hospital. Beverages were compliments of Baton Rouge Coca-Cola United and Community Coffee.

Serving on the committee with Duke were Vivian Anderson, Al Banker, Alice Burke, Tokesha Collins, Jean e tte Eisworth, Melanie Fields, Heather Folks-Givens, Tiffany Lear, Danna Leblanc, Jude Melville, Thomas Pittenger, Katie Redding, LaQueda Ricks, Sharla Sossamon, Robin Toler and Audrey Wascome.

‘Masquerade on the Mississippi’

That same night, the LSU Museum of Art took inspiration from its latest exhibit of Venetian art to celebrate its 10th anniversary in the Shaw Center for the Arts. “Masquerade on the Mississippi” had guests donning all manner of masks for the big night.

I hate I had to miss it because I had the perfect mask to wear, but my sources tell me it was a fun night.

Power of the Purse

Never under estimate the Power of the Purse! The several hundred women who turned out to support the American Red Cross at its 17th annual Power of the Purse luncheon March 25 proved that point beyond any shadow of a doubt. First off, the women on the committee assembled an enticing assortment of designer purses for the silent auction and then sweetened the pot by filling those purses with an array of other goodies, like tickets to the LSU vs. Auburn football game, a spa day, dinner at one of the city’s best restaurants … you get the picture.

As we all enjoyed our lunch, we heard from Disaster Assistance Team captain Stephenie Thompson, state Fire Marshal Butch Browning and Louisiana Region CEO Kay Wilkins on how we can help the Red Cross meet its national goal of reducing home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent over the next five years.

Past board Chairwoman Karen Eddlemon and her successor Desirée Lemoine then caused another ripple of excitement with the announcement of an upcoming commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina featuring LSU football coach Les Miles. The luncheon takes place May 19 in the new expansion at Tiger Stadium.

Mistress of ceremonies for Power of the Purse was Julie Baxter. Committee members included Emily Davis, Shannon Duplessis, Julie Fay , Jennifer Gullo, Heather Berthelot, Isabela Henry, Sharon Holeman, Irene Kotval, Jessica Nelson, Sarah Rhodes, Celeste Viator and Hope Zettlemoyer.

Patron Party

Later that evening, Susan and Lew Love rolled out the welcome mat to their lovely home for a party honoring patrons of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Lew is president of the board, several members of which were in attendance. Welcoming guests with the hosts were Executive Director Abby Hamilton and her staff.

I enjoyed visiting with Susan as she mixed up a batch of Pimm’s Cup in the kitchen. It was the first time I’d ever had this refreshing veteran cocktail. I also enjoyed chatting with Ann McCanless, who helped Susan with the home’s décor; Bill Profita, who with wife Karen emcees JDRF’s annual Derby After Dark Gala, which takes place April 25; and Kristy Andries, who serves on the board of chancellors. Catering the affair was Louis Molbert , of Galatoire’s Bistro, another foundation board member.

Night of Character

Signs that read “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent” … in other words the Boy Scout creed, lined the road to the LSU Rural Life Museum for the Istrouma Area Council’s annual Night of Character dinner March 24. The night also included both silent and live auctions and music by Kenny Altazin and Chris LeBlanc.

Among the items up for auction in the live auction, conducted by Brian Fourroux, were a week’s stay in Destin, a saltwater fishing trip, a NASCAR Charlotte package, an LSU football package and the chance to guest host a radio show courtesy of Guaranty Broadcasting.

Proceeds from the evening, chaired by Jude Bursavich, benefited the Character Program, a collaboration between the council, local charter organizations and the East Baton Rouge Housing Authority to provide at-risk youth “an opportunity to experience Scouting activities and values.”

Assisting Bursavich were committee members John Fabre, Val Browning, Ryan Girouard, Jennifer Harris, Druit Gremillion Jr., council President John Murrill, Charles Spencer, Scout Executive Gary Mertz, Director of Field Service Tyrone Black and office manager Dayna Gremillion.

‘All that Jazz’

Before checking in with the Boy Scouts, I popped in at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s annual shareholders’ meeting at L’Auberge Casino & Hotel. Featured speaker for “All that Jazz” was John Elstrott, chairman of Whole Foods Market.

Receiving awards at the dinner were Patricia McMurry, the D. Jensen Holliday Award; the late Ben Miller Jr., Community Champion; Pod Pack International, Project of the Year; Pamela Bounds, 2014 Volunteer of the Year; Philip Meyers, 2014 Perfect Attendance; and Michael Songy, outgoing board chairman.

During the cocktail hour I got to chat with Bounds (aka “the Cake Lady”), Mary Beth Chevalier, Maxine Crump, Dennis Blount, Layne McDaniel, Norman Chenevert and L’Auberge GM Mickey Parenton. I also got a dance update from BRAC CEO Adam Knapp, one of the Star Dancers in this year’s Dancing for Big Buddy, which takes place April 25 at LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

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