Palio partying and “Roaring on the River” made on-the-go debutantes even more so, thanks to bashes that honored Katie Johnsen, and the days-later fête for a sixsome: Grace Bellone, Coco Guillot, Ruth Landry, Alison Mikes, Leslie McConnell, and Adley Schmid. All thrilled to the revved up revelry.
Siena in My Dreams
Come on, Aquila! Or Chiocciola. Or Onda. But what about Pantera, Selva, Leocorno, Torre, Drago, Lupa or Oca!
All of those Italian nouns leap off the paper when it’s time for the twice-a-year Il Palio in Siena, Italy. The world-famous horse race in the city’s Piazza del Campo occurs two times in the summer and features jockeys in medieval costumes competing for a banner called the Palio. The above names belong to the various colorful banners of the 17 “contrade” or districts of Siena, although in each race, only 10 (of the 17) participate.
“When we looked at the location, Il Mercato (on Magazine Street), we felt a Tuscan presence to it,” said debutante Katherine Elise Johnsen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R. Christian Johnsen, Karen and Chris. Both parents had been to Siena, and Chris to Il Palio. Things fell into place and the theme for Katie’s debutante party arose. The impressive invitation by Scriptura depicted the famous racing scene and historical characters. On the back, there was a short history of the 90-second horse race, as well as seven eye-catching banners of the contrade.
Upon arrival, guests were greeted by the jockey-outfitted, valet parking attendants. Paces away, and inside, guests were wowed by the décor of Palio banners/flags, medieval shields, film of the newly released Palio movie, and period costumes on some of the wait staff. One guest was amazed to see so many women wearing the same pearl necklaces. On closer inspection, those were party favors and attached pendant-style by a “shield” bearing the words “Palio di Siena, Katherine Elise Johnsen, 2015.”
Meanwhile, Katie paired a long red skirt with a short, beaded top and mom Karen, a similar theme in her outfit.
Mingling were family members, such as grandparents Erik and Barbara Johnsen and Pete and Marilyn Quirk, deb sister Callee Johnsen, Erik and Kristi Johnsen, Anne and Glyn Bailey, Karen and Jimmy Baldwin, Ann and Johnny Koerner, C.C. and Bill “Billy” Langenstein, Kathryn and Charlie Brown, Jimmy and Suzanne Broadwell, Deborah Broadwell Gordon, Brian Quirk, Aimee Quirk, and Elizabeth and Cameron Dekker. Close friends were Connie and Jeff Parker, Margaret and Matt LeCorgne, Elly and Merritt Lane, Katherine and Robbie Saer, Mary and Bill Hines, Sarah and Pat Vance, Lisa and Karl Hoefer, Elizabeth and Chip Goodyear, and Bonnie and Bob Livingston. To mention a few within the Palio pack that included lots of debutantes, and even more amici.
An Italian-based menu fed the flock, who grazed on cheeses and charcuterie, risotto, bellinis and gelato, among other delectables. To add floral accents, Dunn and Sonnier created some stunning arrangements.
Of course music kicked in, starting with an Italian three-piece ensemble. To kick the decibels up a notch or two, the band BRW commanded the stage, inviting a beaming Katie to join in their singing. And if manifestations of joy would have been in the running at a social event, Katie would have won that banner.
“I’m amazed at how many people turned out in costume,” observed one of the hosting moms, who surveyed the huge crowd at Southport Hall on a recent Saturday evening. Indeed, the inner flapper or gangsta found a social outlet.
Teamed to host “Roaring on the River” for their deb daughters were Jill and Chris Bellone for Grace, Jacqueline and Jacques Guillot for Coco, Liz and Michael Landry for Ruth, Celeste and Steven Mikes for Alison, spouses Susan McLellan and David McConnell for Leslie, and Karen and William Schmid for Adley. Their names were imprinted in gold on the art deco-style invitation that gave the attire as “Roaring 20s or evening cocktail.”
Head-turning decorations filled the space, thanks to white ostrich feather and crystal arrangements by Fancy Faces Décor (in Covington), mercury glass votives and candle holders, calla lilies submerged in glass cylinders with floating candles, and black and gold Pop Art photos of the six honorees done by the above Jacqueline Guillot. Guests entered through a clear tented area with quotes from illustrious names of the thematic era, such as W.C. Fields, placed around. Known for his love of tippling, he once said, “During Prohibition I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.”
The food at this retro fete delighted one and all, most of whom queued up for the charbroiled oysters done on the spot by Drago’s. Special cake pops were made by Lois Sweet, a friend of Grace Bellone. For the general catering, Pigeon purveyed.
Grace Bellone’s dress, which was embellished by fashion merchandising major and childhood friend Lyssie Ropp, was admired by Debra and Lewis Ropp, Dr. and Mrs. Robert Link, John and Amy Hite, Carolyn Bacchus, Stacey and Richard Williams, Rhonda and Richard Williams, Tom Roche and Cindy Wilson, and Kaye Courington and Lance Rydberg. As for Coco Guillot, who turned out in a period dress by Sue Wong, the nearest and dearest were grandparents Deirdre and Mike Provosty, and deb siblings Shea, t’Jacques, Jean and Camille Guillot. Also, Mitch and Cathy Provosty, Deirdre and Jim Jasmin, Lisa and Clay Allen, Emily and Mike Kazmierzak, and Kay Burke.
Joining Ruth Landry, who donned an art deco-inspired creation by Parker, were sister Madeline Landry, Curran and Simonne Burke, Mark and Jane Landry, Francis Landry, Yvette and Michael Semmes, Sheela and David Plater (he’s the recent author of “The Butlers of Iberville Parish, Louisiana”), the Robert E. Youngs, Brian and Beth Plater, Christopher and Luz Plater, and Maclyn Hickey. Also, Mary Grace, Stephen, Mathilde and Max Sellars. Another take on art deco was worn by Alison Mikes, whose grandparents, Gunther and Joan Michaelis and Joe and Eva Mikes, were there, as were deb siblings Madison and Kelemen Mikes. More family included Benton and Laura Vickery, Graham and Adele Ralston, Richard Michaelis, Erik and Kristi Johnsen, Susan and Brian Piglia, and Suzanne Bagwill.
Leslie McConnell chose a purple-fringed flapper look for her big night. Three grandparents, Richard and Mary McConnell and Marie McLellan, made “Roaring” merry, as did Allan McConnell, Tina and Jay McLellan with Eugenie and Sadie, Rick and Laurie McConnell, and Gervais Favrot. A Marchesa mode outfitted Adley Schmid, whose grandparents, Dr. David and Alma Weilbaecher, figured in the fun. So did Michele and Pierre Legrand, Dr. Bob and Sharon Weilbaecher, Mary Stewart Bailey and David, Lynne Brennan, Carol Dienes (in a fabulous flapper ensemble), Patricia and George Clay, Deborah and Tim Verlander, Richard J. Brennan III, and Walker Legrand.
Mingling during the event became more and more spread out with some fancy folks choosing to stay in the tented area and converse. Others moved into the huge main room, which had pretty effects in the form of silver-blue lights strung across the ceiling. There, guests perused party people, headed to the taco and grilled cheese sandwich bars, and ambled to the photo booth. “Grab a Prop” beckoned the party pack to do just that as they mugged or smiled. Just feet away from the photo booth was the stage with Third Generation making music for three generations. Dance-floor energy occurred early on with hits like “Mustang Sally” (and “Ride, Sally, Ride”) and struck a particular note with all six hosting families as the band played, “My Girl.”