Before music-loving crowds trekked to the Vieux Carré for the 33rd annual French Quarter Festival Inc. presented by Chevron, smaller, but no less enthusiastic throngs, headed to a venerable Quarter landmark, Antoine’s Restaurant, for the Opening Night Gala. Folks were beckoned by the format of a one-hour patron party and the subsequent 3-D delights: “Dinner, Drinks and Dancing.”

The appetite was immediately gratified by the passed hors d’oeuvres, featuring some of Antoine’s acclaimed dishes. More fine food was placed on buffet tables with a gastronomic gamut from crabmeat ravigote to baked Alaska with chocolate sauce. No one was shy about going back for seconds

As the party pack — sold-out, by the way — made rounds, people enjoyed the attractions of the Rex, Proteus, Twelfth Night Revelers and Hermes rooms. To mention several. They also acknowledged the fact that the French Quarter Festival is the only nonprofit community organization that Antoine’s allows to “take over” the premises. Guests love celebrating the opening of the Festival at this gala. They were further gratified knowing that 2016 party proceeds would benefit the Roots of Music and improvements and beautification of Jackson Square.

Among the notables were FQFI board President Errin Bellan, Executive Director Marci Schramm and husband Scott Campbell, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Mayor Mitch and Cheryl Landrieu, and from Chevron, Mile Illane and Brent Wood. Also, Angela Hill, Eric and Bethany Paulsen, Leo Basile, Teddy Graziano, Darryl and Louellen Berger, Arnold and Arlene Cooper and countless others — around 475 — who talked up what the fest promised: the “Largest showcase of Louisiana music in the world, across 23 stages.”

Meanwhile, the gala’s scintillating sounds set the night to music. Thanks aplenty tapped Carl LeBlanc during the patrons powwow, and, at the main merriment, the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band with special guests Jean Knight, The Dixie Cups, Big Sam, Fred LeBlanc and Robin Barnes.

Swing Time

Hollywood South was the tout and the party decorations followed glittery suit. To capture the glitz and glam of the industry, the New Orleans Chapter of the Links Inc. dubbed its annual Swing Into Spring, “A Tribute to Hollywood South” and decorated accordingly. Within the location, the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, there were illuminated movie projectors perched atop movie reels surrounded by black and silver Mylar, star-shaped floating balloons and silver confetti. Of course, no Hollywood celebration would be complete without Oscar, and so-styled silver trophies were the appropriate touch.

The food was by Messina’s at the Terminal, the venue’s in-house caterer. Culinary hits — and there were meal-many — included savory cones, lamb pops, wee crab cakes, a grits bar and a dessert station. Yum!

Providing the music was the LeCoste Band.

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the prestigious Linkage Award to Linetta Gilbert of Gilbert & Associates. She’s a respected member of the philanthropic community and has held executive-level positions with a number of foundations.

Among those on hand to congratulate her were chapter President Verdie Richburg; Swing Into Spring Gala Co-Chairwomen Nailah Jefferson and Erica Wilson, whose husband, Jonathan, is president of The 100 Black Men of Metro New Orleans, one of the event’s several sponsors; chapter alumnae members Catherine Packer, Andrea Carter and Rhesa McDonald, with husband Alden, president and CEO of Liberty Bank, another sponsor; and former chapter Presidents Dr. Andrea Jefferson and Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey.

And Ruth Ramsey, Penny and Octave Francis, Chimene Grant Connor with fiancé Torrey Lewis, New Jersey resident Dr. Samuel Guillory (daughter Christine is a chapter member), Courtney and Dr. Roderick Thornton, Germaine and Daniel Davillier, Renee and Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Dr. Sarah Moody Thomas and Judge Piper Griffin, respective Pontchartrain and Crescent City chapter presidents of The Links Inc. All enjoyed a readiness for their social close-ups.

Let’s Dance!

Formed a number of years ago by “25 charming couples who loved parties, especially dances,” the 25 Club has increased in size but not in its initial pursuit of fun. Each spring, clubbers have a midday social event offering an opportunity to enjoy “good friends, good music, good food, good times!” That says it all. Teamed to chair the Sunday noon event at the New Orleans Country Club were 25 Club President Anne Buescher (with husband Frank), Caroline Sanders, Helene Tebo, President-elect Ann Middleton (with Dan Todd), Stephanie Spencer (Clay was not able to attend) and Diane Zatarain (with Chuck). All enjoyed the typical brunch fare of grits and grillades. As centerpieces, cute black lanterns were nestled in greenery and surrounded by votive lights for a nod to the French Quarter and jazz.

Among the many reveling in the “good” gallivanting were retired Judge Tom and Jane Wicker, Jo Nelle Kepper and Jim, Lydia Ozenberger, Dr. Al and Ann Colfry, retired state Sen. Tom and Kathy Casey, Fred and Teebelle Betz, Kathy Alexander, Eileen and Greg Gambel, Jan and Jim Jeter, Ben and Linda Guider, friends Kathy Singleton and Elise Orr, Marvin and Suzie Russell, and Cindy and Stan Ellington, who, several Sundays later, rubbed shoulders with members of the Huguenot Society for a lecture-buffet dinner at the home of Donna and Jack Little. Presiding was John Beaumont, joined by wife Sylvi.

Back to the 25 set! Susan Bell and Pierre de La Barre mingled with Billy and Carol Messersmith, Elise Beron, Kirsti and Shirley Friend and others, who cut the proverbial rug to the Horizon Band. Dancing dominated and included just about everyone. Said Co-Chairwoman Helene Tebo, with a smile in her voice, “I even managed to end up on the dance floor.” Good music, good times were certainly the festive focus.

Around and About

To hail a new decade, Margarita “Darling” Bergen rounded up Dutch Treat-paying pals to Galatoire’s for lunch on a very recent Friday. The menu was a tasty green salad, main course choice of chicken or fish, and flan and banana bread pudding. Since her name means “daisy,” many folks came with the appropriate floral accessory or motif. Indeed, on her table was a centerpiece of daisies.

Seated at her table were Grace Hagen, Joan Mollohan, Linda Thompson, Jim Blanchard (who did the artwork for the cover of the Galatoire’s menu), Kevin Kelly, Cecily Boudreaux, Bonnie Warren and Margarita’s brother, Lorenzo.

Entertaining the lively lunchers were Jim Walpole, Marshall Harrison and Mary Flynn Thomas. A special hit was the singing of Cari Roy, who rendered a twist to the famous “Hello Dolly” number. In honor of Margarita, she made it “Hello Darling,” and everyone joined in singing.