Trooping the Chapeaux

“A Buckingham Palace Garden Party” was the billed attraction for the annual Celebration of the Official Birthday of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It occurred at the invitation of the English-Speaking Union New Orleans Branch at the New Orleans Country Club. “High noon” was the stated time, the music makers were The Last Straws, and patrons received an official Royal Baby Porcelain Coffee Mug from the Royal Collection, Buckingham Palace.

As for suggested attire, it was “suits (white linen or light colors), Commonwealth dress or uniform” for the men. The distaff dress centered on the Ladies’ Annual Hat Contest, and almost all of the attendees donned outfits that were floral and fanciful to reflect the theme and chapeaux similarly adorned. The sartorial palette was truly a lovely one.

As guests entered the party site, they admired a tent with an awning of yellow and white stripes, abundant flanking flora, and green “grass” rugs that were placed throughout the party area to give the feeling of being in a garden. With a nod to the “old commonwealths” of England, the centerpieces included calla lilies and exotic greens (Hong Kong), brightly colored vases and flowers (India and the Raj), and English arrangements with roses and daisies. The daisies were donated by The New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society, whose curator is Leo Watermeier.

Particular thanks tapped event Chairwoman Shauna Grissett, floral coordinator Jackie Gamble, Brent Day (tent and carpet assembly) and the check-in team of Kathy Singleton and Ted DuCharm.

Moments after guests were seated, ESU Branch President Dave Grissett took the microphone to start the formalities. Mistress of ceremonies Nell Nolan (yes, this columnist) began, saying Queen Elizabeth II was born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926, in London, but that her official birthday is celebrated in June. She was married in 1947, crowned in 1953, and in September 2015, will become the longest reigning British monarch in history, surpassing her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Herschel Abbott Jr. and Kevin Mackey continued the program, during which time guests sang “God Save the Queen” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A buffet brunch then beckoned with such taste treats as grillades and grits, and create-your-own sundaes to top it off. Among the libations were wine, mimosas and bloody marys.

Headliners included the above Grissetts, former Branch President/now national one Dr. Quinn Peeper with Michael Harold (who were chatting up the date for the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo), Courtney-Anne Sarpy, and Bonnie Boyd, who announced the programs for the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, starting with the just-ended and raved-about “Cymbeline, which will be remounted in January 2016 for school children and, on one night, adults.

Noted, too, were Paula Dickey and Richard Gill, Louis de la Vergne, Haydee (Mrs. Kevin) Mackey, Rick Norman (spouse Liz Williams was busy at SoFAB), Sammy Steele (who purchased two tables), Margarita Bergen, Diane Dupin, recent Junior League Sustainer of the Year Claire Stahel and Harry, Susan Bell, Melissa Gordon, Drew and Julie Jardine, and John Magill, who just retired after three decades as the senior curator at The Historic New Orleans Collection. He’ll still be involved in the writing of history.

A project of The English Speaking Union, which has as its mission “Education. Scholarship. Understanding,” is the ESU National Shakespeare Competition, the largest educational initiative. Since its initiation in 1983, the competition “has engaged more than 250,000 young people in 60 communities nationwide.” Covington High School’s Camille Albarez, whose teacher is Gary Mendoza, was the New Orleans Branch winner and traveled to New York to compete nationally.

Booking Awards

The above SoFAB, which has as its formal name the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, was the location for an award presentation during the Crescent City meeting of the national board of the Women’s National Book Association. The WNBA of New Orleans, Louisiana (WNBA-NOLA), hosted the June 6-8 activity.

Given every two years, the Bookwoman Award went to Amy King, a poet and one of the founders of VIDA count, “which tracks gender bias in publishing and reviewing.” Having worked on the “Poets for Living Waters” project after the PB oil “spill,” Amy feels a great connection to New Orleans. Previous award recipients have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Barbara Bush, and Ann Patchett.

Scripted socially into the literary hobnobbing were Amy’s partner, poet Melissa Studdard, as well as WNBA national President Carin Siegfried of Charlotte, North Carolina; former national presidents Mary Grey James and Valerie Tomaselli; New York Chapter President Jane Kinney Denning; N.C. Weil, who chaired the award; and WNBA-NOLA officers: President Susan Larson, Treasurer Karen Kersting, and Secretary Ann Benoit. Also, Kirk and Serena Jones, Sheila Cork, Rodger Kamenetz and Moira Crone, Freddi Evans, Gloria Toler, Bebe Brechner, and the above SoFAB director Liz Williams, who hosted the event.

Farewell, Andrew

“Farewell Reception honoring Her Majesty’s Consul General Andrew Millar and his contribution to the Louisiana/UK relationship” headed the Paperless Post invitation that gave The Bombay Club as the site and 6 p.m.-8 p.m. as the time. Early this month, Consul General Millar is ending his four-year posting as British Consul General in Houston, a post representing Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. He is not retiring, but is moving back to London with his wife and two sons.

According to a colleague, “He absolutely adores New Orleans” and has been a very frequent presence.

A handsome pub, The Bombay Club is designed with dark wood throughout and extensive British décor, such as Union Jack flags, vintage British prints and collectibles, and a large portrait of Winston Churchill. Food followed suit — with some area flair — thanks to a fish and chip skewer, Cajun deviled eggs, and grilled chicken smothered in Cajun red gravy.

Among the notables were honorary consul/New Orleans resident James J. “Jimmy” Coleman Jr. who gave remarks and praised Millar’s connection with the city of New Orleans and its people, and Julie Vezinot from the office of the lieutenant governor, who presented the honoree with a Battle of New Orleans bicentennial medal.

Then there were Corrado Giacona of the World Trade Center of New Orleans, Gen. Richard P. Mills and spouse Pat, Jean Lafitte National Park Superintendent Lance Hatten, Daughters of the British Empire state President Jane Caruso with husband Leonard, and Daughters of 1812 Chalmette Chapter President Jeanne Williams.

And, David Gamble, Judy and Sylvan Steinberg, Larry Collins, Kirsten E. Gray, Kathe Falls, Michael Valentino and Kathy Slimp, Monique Singley and Paul Verlander, and historical adviser Timothy Pickles. All extended the best of wishes to Andrew Millar in his return to London and his future endeavors.