The Original Illinois Club’s 114th annual ball and debutante cotillion symbolized, recognized and celebrated the organization’s 120th anniversary with the beauty, custom, history and dignity of our predecessors at the Alario Center Saturday evening.
The club has presented a Carnival ball every year since 1895, except during national and local emergencies. Founded in 1895 by the late Wiley Knight, a native of Tennessee. After a brief residency in Chicago, Mr. Knight came to New Orleans where he organized a school of dance for both sexes for people of color. The dance class staged its first “Carnival Ball” in 1895. Since that presentation, the balls and cotillions have been the hallmark of the social calendar during the New Orleans famous Carnival season.
The theme told of the history of flight or the history of a dream: human-kind’s dream to soar through the sky like a bird. At last night’s ball, OIC remembered the contributions of African Americans in flight as they traveled “Beyond Gravity” through the tableau.
Reigning over the evening’s soaring festivities as queen was Miss Taylor Reneé Harris, daughter of Mr. Andrew Ponder Harris and Ms. Crishelle McConduit Hoffman.
King Illinois 2015 was Mr. John Michael Blanchard.
The appearance of the 2015 ball captain, Mark V. Joseph Sr., signaled the opening of the ball, followed by the lighting of the OIC crest. Accompanying the captain were his heralds, Misses Carrington Alexis Irvin, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Henry and Mr. Charles Irvin Jr.; and Jalen Camille Frazier, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest (Wendy) Frazier Jr. Representatives from the Landry-Walker College and Career Preparatory High School Navy Junior ROTC under the direction of Retired Master Gunnery Sgt. the Rev. Robert Myers helped to open the ball while the band played “The Star Spangled Banner” and “American the Beautiful.”
Next was the entrance of the 2014 queen, Miss Amanda Christine Newsome, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Reece Newsome Sr. She was escorted by King Illinois 1993, Mr. Charles F. Webb Sr. and her father. Accompanied by her court, Miss Newsome was presented a bouquet of roses by her father and escorted to a seat of honor.
With the sound of trumpets, the captain announced the arrival of the king. He was escorted by Messrs. Anthony F. Maheia, King Illinois 1990; H. Kenneth Johnston, King Illinois 1995; and Lynn J. Dedeaux, King Illinois 2013. Pages to the king were Misses Brooke Christina Blanchard, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Blanchard; and Grace Felice Hammond, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Christopher L. (Jeanene) Hammond.
The king called for the introduction of the 2015 royal court.
The debutantes to the queen were Misses Mignon Benea Blanc, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Blanc III; Kayla Shaniece Crump, daughter of Ms. Trinette Crump; Sydney Camille Labat, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Brian Labat; Terri Pacely, daughter of Ms. Lisha Pacely; Donjé-Carrielle Rogers, daughter of Mr. Vernon G. Dorty Jr. and Ms. Schantalyn-Danielle Jacobs; Cianne Mnemostyne Smith, daughter of Mr. Ronnie Smith and Ms. Zenetta Williams Smith; and Charese Lauchelle Williams, daughter of Mr. Christopher Ledet Williams Sr. and Mrs. Madonna Polite-Williams.
Following the introduction of the debutantes with the sound of trumpets, the queen of the 2015 ball entered the arena. The queen’s pages were Misses Courtney Trenee Barthé, the daughter of Mr. Gregg Barthé and Mrs. Latoya Barthé; Royelle Mia Robins, the daughter of Mr. Royal Robins Jr. and Mrs. Sabrina C. Taylor-Robins; and Taylor Denise Thompson, the daughter of Ms. Danielle D. Thompson.
Entertainment was performed by the Landry-Walker Dance Ensemble under the direction of Brittany Herrera, a former OIC debutante. Music for the ball was provided by the Leroy Pero Orchestra.
In the spirit of the make-believe during the season and while utilizing poetic license, the club asked their guests to remember the contributions of “African Americans in Flight” as they traveled “Beyond Gravity” through the tableau.
Representing African Americans in Flight, and serving as OIC presenters and dancers to the debutantes during the presentation, and also for the traditional “Chicago Glide” waltz were Messrs. Hudson Cutno Jr., Dedeaux, Walter L. Dixon, the Rev. Andrew J. Douglas, Hammond, Mack B. Harris, Thomas J. Hutcherson Sr., Johnston, Mark V. Joseph Sr., Maheia, Dr. Newsome Sr., E.J. Roberts, William J. Washington and Charles F. Webb Sr.
The traditional toast to the royal couple was given by the OIC president, Mr. Roberts. Led by their majesties in the royal promenade, the debutantes, escorted by OIC members, danced the traditional club waltz — “The Chicago Glide” — to the music of “Dance, Dance Queen Illinois.” This dance was performed at the club’s first ball and debutante cotillion in 1895.
Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of club awards and acknowledgments to the president, captain and debutantes of the Young Men Illinois Club; and the OIC royal court modiste, Mrs. Marigold Hardesty. Also receiving awards for services to the club were Mmes. Bettye P. Johnston, Marion W. Maheia, Rogerwene D. Washington and Tracy Dedeaux, consultants to the debutantes, heralds, and pages; and Mrs. Kathleen Hutcherson, rehearsal accompanist.
A special presentation was made to Mr. Calvin Moret, a former Tuskegee Airman, and Mr. Feltus Kennedy, former propulsion engineer and retired director of the Space Systems Company for Lockheed Martin, for their years of service to the country.
Mr. H. Kenneth Johnston served as debutante chairman. Mr. Rick O. Amos served as master of ceremonies and narrator. President Roberts introduced the OIC members and their ladies, and Mr. Johnston introduced the royal court debutantes.
OIC officers assisting with arrangements included Messrs. Roberts, Dedeaux, Washington, Maheia, Webb Sr., Dr. Newsome Sr., the Rev. Douglas, Hutcherson Sr., Harris, Dixon, Joseph Sr., Amos and Blanchard. Other supporting members were debutante chairman Mr. Johnston, new OIC members Messrs. Cutno Jr. and Hammond, along with honorary members Messrs. J. Harold Boucree, Herbert J. McCullum, Ulric Y. Pryce and Richard A. Theodore.
During the evening, the club paid memorial tribute to deceased members. The ball was concluded with a special waltz by OIC members and their ladies, guest callouts and general dancing.