On the vernal calendar, two events hover at the apex: the Whitney Zoo-To-Do at Audubon Zoo, a fundraiser of the Audubon Nature Institute, and the Gala given by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation Inc. prior to Jazz Fest. Both bashes produced 2014 thrills.

Gator-Aid

Approximately 4,000 guys and gals amassed at the zoo for the popular party and the week-earlier Zoo-To-Do for Kids that have slated proceeds to underwrite Audubon Zoo’s Gator Run, the new Lazy River attraction opening in 2015. Respective chairwomen were Michele T. Reynoir and the Kids’ Julie Habetz and they rated due raves. Joining Michele were children Myles, Porter and Caitlin Carrere.

For the adults’ 37th ado, Michele donned a dress designed by ZTD attendee Suzanne Perron and hand-painted by E. Lee Meade to resemble a white alligator. As far as the attire of the other 3,999 notables, dresses (floral, spring-time colorful, and even long – please, no black) were sported by the distaff revelers, while the men wore tuxedos, white linen suits (many complemented with gator-motif ties), or white dinner jackets.

Sponsor and patron shoulder-rubbing kicked off in the Jerome S. Glazer Audubon Tea Room and adjacent garden and Patron Lounge. Inspired by the theme of a Louisiana cypress swamp, the Tea Room featured thematic centerpieces, along with turquoise and chocolate-brown linens. A large “tree” arrangement consisting of delicate red flowers and hanging glass candles was the focal point in the garden tent, while the Patron Lounge featured chic white furniture and gold and cobalt-blue shimmer linens topped with bouquets of roses and succulents. The eyes feasted.

And speaking of, top-notch cuisine came from 70 eateries and drinks, from more than 40 bars at the main event. The “ayes” had it for all this fine fare that, no doubt, fueled the party pack for energetic bidding at the extensive auction and the later boogieing, either in place or partnered.

Of course, thanks galore were directed to Title Sponsor Whitney, Lexus of New Orleans for the raffle of a luxury vehicle, patron party sponsors Michele Reynoir and Kevin G. Clifford, Chevron Corp., Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, The Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation, Eustis Benefits LLC, HCA MidAmerica Division, and Tidewater Inc. Additional shout-out gratitude went to CHL Linens, NOLA Flora, Bella Blooms Floral, and Dunn and Sonnier Flowers, as well as to Luis Colmenares, Accent on Arrangements, and Pyramid Audio Productions. For starters.

Within the Gator gang were ANI President and CEO Ron Forman and wife Sally, Clifton and Elizabeth LeBlanc (of the Lexus dealership), Anne and former Rex King Milling, John and Sylvia Laborde, Kim Glazer (daughter of the Tea Room’s late namesake, Jerome), Mason and Jennifer Couvillon, Julie (of the Kids ZTD) and Scott Habetz, Cheryl Teamer, Brent and Lele Wood, Julie and Monty Burlingame, Cooper and Ellen Manning, Christa and Christopher Montgomery and daughter Emilie, and last year’s respective To-Do chairwomen Anne Long (Kids) and Olivia Manning with husbands Paul and Archie.

More “legato” luminaries included the Whitney’s Joe Exnicios, Gary Lorio, Carl Chaney, Bill Andrew, and Caroline Milling, along with sponsorial reps Sakari Morrison, Mike Illanne, Bryan Batt, Fenn French, and Karl Connor. And, Audubon Commission President J. Kelly Duncan with Carmen, ANI Chairwoman Leslie P. Gottsegen, City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson with Buzz, Councilman Jason Williams, and of the 14 honorary ZTD chairman, state Sen. Gary L. Smith and Cathy (Mrs. George Rives III) Cary. Countless others from the institute, commission, and gala committees for the two Do’s (adult and Kids) made social strides.

They made more strides to the three music locations to hear Sasha Masakowski in Cooper Plaza, the Lafourche Cajun Trio in the Lupin Arrival Plaza, the Brass-A-Holics (which delighted the crowd early-on with “Happy”) on the Capital One Main Stage, and on that same stage, the high-energy Party On the Moon. In this case, the party was under it with a balmy, cloudless night as a bonus. Guests packed in closer to the big bands and moved in concert.

Always a highlight, the drawing for the Lexus generates suspense and excitement. With the help of Chairwoman Michele Reynoir, the above Clifton LeBlanc pulled the winning raffle ticket for the 2014 Lexus IS250 and announced Jerry and Darleen Carlisle as the winners.

Jazzy Jaunt

It was a sweet 16 for the annual gala of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation Inc., which tallied that number of years as it produced social pleasures in the New Orleans Hilton’s Grand Ballroom. Mutual of America, Shell and Peoples Health were the gala’s presenting sponsors. Proceeds will support the Don Jamison Heritage School of Music, a free after-school program of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation Inc. The foundation uses the proceeds from Jazz Fest, and other revenues, for year-round education, economic development and cultural programs.

Headliners included gala committee Chairwoman Rachel F. Cousin; Co-Chairwomen Penny Randolph Biagas, Demetric M. Mercadel (the board’s first vice president) and Carol Solomon; committee members Barbara Herman and Katie Roubion (among others); master of ceremonies Bill Rouselle, a past president of the foundation; foundation executive director Don Marshall; President Anthony “Tony” Ruda; headline act introducer Rachel F. Cousin; and, with the above Demetric Mercadel, Steven Tujaque to present the gala honorees. They were Shell, the festival presenting sponsor for more than 10 years – and signed on again, and Johnny Jackson Jr., who has 38 years of experience on the board of directors. Also in attendance, and acknowledged, was Jazz Fest founder George Wein and producer Quint Davis.

Music marqueed the 2014 theme, which was posted “A Celebration of Zydeco Music and All That Jazz.” (The inevitable question, “What does zydeco mean?,” arose.) True to the title, there were a multitude of decorative aspects, including washboards, Spanish moss, Tivoli lights, Cajun Fence Sections, Tin Roof Bar fronts, walk-through props, red-and-white-check linens on black cotton underlays, and LED centerpieces. Performing on the main stage (rendered thematic with a corrugated tin sheeting backdrop) was headliner/Grammy Award-winner Buckwheat Zydeco with special guests Rockin’ Dopsie, C.J. Chenier, Nathan Williams, and Rosie Ledet. They were preceded by The Heritage School of Music students. Kudos, all!

Additional features were the buffet station lighting (and trumpet, piano and saxophone motifs), a slew of food stations, premium liquor donated by the Goldring Foundation, a silent auction with dozens of coveted entries, and a live one conducted by Russ Herman. Artist Frenchy painted two separate pieces during the show and Russ asked for top bidding –and received it – for a painting of Buckwheat Zydeco.

Reveling in the A-Z action, as in auction to zydeco, were Mayor Mitch and Cheryl Landrieu, Sheriff and Mrs. Marlin Gusman, Councilman Jarrod Brossett, Jeff and Walton Goldring, Javier and Sonia Perez, Christopher Bardes, the Phillip Mays, Terrell Clayton, Laney and Ruth Chouest, the John Finans, Jim and Gemelle Linzy, Jimmie Woods, Dr. and Mrs. Charles Mary, Chris Pilley, Karen and Bobby Major, Charles and Vonda Rice, Anthony Sylvester, Alfred Groos, and scores more, who saluted a musical genre, deriving from the French, “Les haricots (ne) sont pas salés,” which became “zydeco.” Well, if the snap beans aren’t salty (the translation), the partying was, with a shake to well-seasoned fun.