‘Twas the Light before Christmas

Elenian Luminaries

Ballo di Natale, the annual Christmas ball of the Elenian Club, took place in the International Ballroom of the Doubletree New Orleans Hotel with 10 debutantes and three ladies in waiting garnering the spotlight. As befitting the time of year, a winter wonderland was the decorative palette. It was created with arrangements of red roses, the club’s flower, topping illuminated crystal cylinders. The stage was aglow with Christmas trees trimmed with red bows and ornaments set in a snowy background.

Wearing white gowns of their choice and carrying red roses were the 10 future Elenian members, as well as the ladies in waiting. Radiant as debutantes were Misses Madeleine Adeline Bechac, daughter of Rhonda and Denis Bechac; Sophia Erin Chifici, daughter of Renee Gascon and Keith Chifici, and granddaughter of Barbara Anselmo Chifici; Therese Mary Chifici, daughter of Joan and Mark Chifici, and granddaughter of Barbara Anselmo Chifici; Paulina Sara Claros, daughter of Paulette and Mario Claros; and Stephanie Ann Deshotel, daughter of Deborah and Rene Deshotel, granddaughter of Elizabeth and Glenn Deshotel, and great-granddaughter of the late Josephine Pizzolato-Ploger.

The five remaining debutantes were Misses Anna Marie Hummel, daughter of Elenian Club President Robin Hummel, niece of Marita Romano and escorted by her uncle, Robert Taylor; Katherine Anne Kitchen, daughter of Michelle and Kevin Kitchen, and granddaughter of Robert and June Kitchen; Margaret Rose Manshel, daughter of Elizabeth and Laurence Manshel, and granddaughter of Anne and Anthony J. Cigali; Bianca Claire Sprague, daughter of Angela and Jeremiah Sprague; and Sylvia Rose White, daughter of Sissy White, and escorted by John Gerretz.

The three ladies in waiting were Misses Rylee Nicole Forvendel, daughter of Courtney Forvendel, granddaughter of Fay Forvendel and escorted by Bill Landry Jr.; Anna Grace Tyler, daughter of Ashley C. and Henry J. Tyler, and granddaughter of Anne and Anthony J. Cigali; and Charlotte Olevia Verges, daughter of Amy and Louis P. Verges III, and granddaughter of Camille and Louis P. Verges Jr.

As club president, Robin Hummel welcomed guests. She also served as ball chairwoman with assistance from Lisa Ingraham, Maria Villafranco (accompanied by husband Daniel), Paula Mahne and the above Elizabeth Manshel and Rhonda Bechac. Past presidents LeAnne Leopold Savoie (with a gent in a red suit, who said “Ho, Ho, Ho!”), Virginia Eckholdt (with John) and Faith Peperone (with Bill) coordinated the presentees. Austin Hummel, Robin’s son, served as master of ceremonies. Additional past presidents were Eileen Boudoin, Dr. Judith Miranti, the above Barbara Chifici, and with respective husbands Frank and Mike, the above Marita Romano and Maria Mire. Liz and Chris Bertucci, Laure and Brian Tanner, Tori Traina, and Mary Viola Jones-Latour, the most senior member, also enjoyed the club’s nod to Noel.

Following the presentation, a dinner (described as “scrumptious” and topped off with red velvet cake) pleased the party palate. More features were the music by the Jerry Embree Band and the arrival of Santa Claus (Ira Savoie), who joined in the festivities. He then led the ladies in a second line and presented each one with a special commemorative ornament of the organization.

Home Lights

One of the choicest parties of the Christmas season is the one given to kick off the Holiday Home Tour weekend of the Preservation Resource Center. The lavish cocktail party for 2017 was held in the historic home of Liz and Terry Creel in the Garden District. At the entrance, two large fruit topiaries done by hostess Liz and the “legendary” large, lighted tree in the front parlor were major focal points. Champagne for the arriving guests added special effervescence.

An additional feature was the adjacent tent that provided an inviting ambiance, thanks to a large fireplace and tables, where guests enjoyed libations from the brace of outdoor bars. Chilly weather added just the right amount of energy. The food, catered by Pigeon (Platinum Sponsor), included a grits bar, while oyster shooters, sweet potato biscuits and coconut Gulf shrimp were hits as passed appetizers. For the musical menu, New Orleans Banjos + 2 added jazzy jauntiness in the Creels’ family room. All the while the host couple circulated, making everyone feel welcome.

Noted were PRC interim Executive Director Jack Davis, board President Graham Ralston (of Regions Bank, the Presenting Sponsor) and Adele, incoming board President Marshall Hevron, Stacy and Jeremy Head, Sarah Martzolf and David Jackson, Brian and Kristin Van Hook Moore, Richard and Mary Martin Roth, Joan and Henry Folse, Kristen and Woody Koppel, Alice and Brodie Glenn, and Holiday Home Tour Chairwomen Elizabeth Harper Emmett and Ashley Payne Gonzalez. The above Kristin and Mary chaired the patron party.

The subsequent two days were abuzz with the peregrinations of the Holiday Home Tour throng. Trinity Episcopal Church was the headquarters, complete with a boutique and Café by Nolavore Catering, and Alert Transportation LLC offered courtesy shuttle service. Seven impressive homes in the Garden District were all dressed up for the holidays and ready for visits. Musical groups performed in each venue. Thanks aplenty tapped the owners of the homes on tour: Annie and Jeff Strain, Leigh and Billy Bell, Nancy and Michael McSween, Catherine Newstadt Makk, Lauren and Ryan Haydel, Susu and Andrew Stall, Mark Hensgens and Tim Armstrong, and, as a bonus, the Jackson Avenue Evangelical Congregation, where a dessert room with warm drinks and pastries was an inviting interlude.

A Million Dazzling Lights!

Called “America’s most dazzling Holiday Light Festival,” the annual New Orleans City Park Celebration in the Oaks offers a million-plus lights and breathtaking displays, all of which will be on view in the park’s Botanical Garden, Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and Storyland through Jan. 1. (The event, which also celebrated Mr. Bingle’s 70th birthday, will be closed Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.) For more than three decades, families have made a visit their holiday tradition.

Adults, however, were the welcomed force at the Preview Party. At that time, guests viewed the displays with exclusive access to the Botanical Garden and train route. Live entertainment on four stages delighted audiences, and food and quaff quarters — more than 35 — nourished them. This year’s culinary competition winners were Lagniappe Luncheonette, Palace Café, Marcello’s Restaurant and Wine Bar, Three Legged Dog, and Milagro.

Noted were City Park CEO Bob Becker and Pat, Charles Rice Jr. (from Presenting Sponsor, Entergy New Orleans) and Vonda, 2017 Celebration Chairman Kurt Jostes and Rebecca, Andrea and Georges Legrand, Karen and Peter DeBlieux, Allison and Rob DeViney, Leigh Morgan Thorpe, Tannia Hahn, Mary Ellen Miller and Cliff, Mary Johnson, Cathy and Edmund Schrenk, Taylor Morgan, Poppy Tooker, and Errol and Peggy Scott Laborde. To name a few of the bash’s bright lights.


Merry Christmas!