Three recent events had the party pack on the go. Jefferson Beautification Inc. winged its supporters thematically to Brazil for Parkway Promenade XXIV, Young Audiences of Louisiana presented its sixth annual Dancing for the Arts to benefit YA’s programs and initiatives, and St. Martin’s Episcopal School rallied revelers for “Show Your Spirit.” Energy went hand-in-hand with hobnobbing.
‘A Night in Rio’
They suggest the thrills of travel and fabulous scenery and go by the names of Ipanema, Copacabana, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Sambadrome. Dozens of other attractions come to mind when people think of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, one of the globe’s top travel destinations. Many New Orleanians — most have never stepped foot in the South American city — have an affinity for it. The link is carnival.
Held in the Grand Ballroom of Chateau Golf and Country Club, “A Night in Rio,” Jefferson Beautification Inc.’s Parkway Promenade, amassed a sold-out crowd of 350. Delighted with those numbers were event Co-Chairwomen Pat Golemi and Denise Woodward, honorary Chairman Dr. Carlos Rodriguez-Fierro, and JBI President and executive director Beulah Oswald-Soto.
Prior to the main event, a patron party occurred in the country club’s Grill Room with a brace of samba dancers as entertainers and a variety of Brazilian hors d’oeuvres, including coconut lobster and fried meat pies. Then it was on to the gala! Guests made quick queues to the libation stations for caipirinhas and then to the food tables that were festively decorated with tropical greenery and palm trees made of stacked pineapples topped with palm fronds. Further atmospheric touches were the Brazilian-costumed mannequin; colorful centerpieces of painted and adorned tree branches set on bright table runners; and, on the stage area, bromeliads that were used as prizes. Custom-made feathery fascinators (created by JBI members Carrel Epling and Nancy Kenyon) were available to complement colorful outfits and to further the theme.
A 50/50 drawing, a door prize, a Parade of Prizes, and a live auction created excitement galore. Henry and Pat Shane were the auctioneers, revving up the “Rio” crowd for a number of items, chief of which was an original oil painting, “Toucans,” donated by the internationally renowned artist Hunt Slonem (ne Slonim). Everett and Beth Fetzer of Houston beamed as the top bidders.
More smiles were sported by the Rio Ensemble Contest winners. They and the categories that linked them were Gerri Valene (Best Ensemble); Pat Golemi (Most Appropriate); Joyce LaPorte (Most Original); Marta Pesantes (Most Adorned); and Margarita Linn (Most Vibrant), all in the distaff ranks. For the men, the names to know were Rusty Bangs (Most Intriguing) and Lee Giorgio (Most Colorful).
Then there was the dancing. With “obrigados” to sponsors Joe and Tiffany Calderara, the Julio & Cesar Band entertained, setting a beat for “Beautification.” Several Latin dance exhibitions rated raves with twosomes Kerry and Diana Lovell and Ben and Gwen Becnel in the samba slot, and, for paso doble, Dr. Jane Miller and Stefan Howard. Yet another contest, a samba one, increased the lively tempo: Marie DeSalvo and Zeno Pimentels came in second, and spouses Miriam Brown and Andres Rodriguez copped the coveted first place.
Among the “Night” brights were Jefferson Parish President John Young, Kenner Mayor Michael Yenni with wife Michelle, Jefferson Parish Councilman at Large Elton Lagasse with Yvonne, Councilmen Ben Zahn and Paul Johnston with Dawn and Linn, spouses Kay Donnelly and Dr. Joseph Rumage, JBI Treasurer Pat Starnes, Secretary Charlotte Ruiz, Barry and Dianne Breaux, Tom and Debbie Mora, Arleeta Terrell and daughter Crystal, Jackie Elliott and friend Joan Ingram, Connie Casey with daughter-in-law Kim, Lisa Baynham, Past JBI President Anne Favret, Dennis Assaf, Valerie Hart, Charlie and Debbie Settoon, and Joy Shane. For starters.
“It was a very festive and fun event,” said one “Rio” principal, who continued with “The dance floor was always full whenever the band played. It was amazing to see how many guests actually knew how to dance the Latin dances.”
Dancing for the Arts
The bannered — and very impressive — names were Dr. Adil Fatakia, Tracee Dundas, Marguerite Moisio, Miranda Restovic, Nadine Ramsey, and Michelle Craig. And when it was time to dance, they each strutted their stuff. All in good spirits, because they and their fine footwork raised money for Young Audiences.
Located at Harrah’s Casino Theatre, the sixth annual “Dancing” was chaired by Elizabeth Williams and Andrew Freeman, emceed by Camille Whitworth, and judged by celebrities Damon Singleton, Ivy Kushner and Dr. Corey Hebert. The “red carpet” and cocktails began at 6:30 p.m. and the main event, a half hour later. An open bar, hors d’oeuvres, buffet dinner, and music by the Soul Heirs and Les ReBelles added event attractiveness.
Coffer excitement, too, for Young Audiences and its 300 performances this year across Louisiana that reached 70,000 children; Early Learning Program; Afterschool and Summer Programs; Arts-Integrated Residences; and professional development. Plus, there’s a Charter School Initiative, the Young Audiences Charter School at Kate Middleton. Macon Moore of sponsor Peoples Health Network presides over the YA board of directors and Rickie Nutik answers to YA executive director.
Still more funds were generated by the raffle, which had, as donors, Harrah’s, Romney Pilates, Morgan Stanley, Cava, and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Noted among the socializing scores were National YA board member Mary Nass with Peter, Dr. Warren and Gail McKenna, Charles Gaspard, Dr. Robert and Beverly Matheney, Dr. Larry and former competitor Joan Zaslow, Anita Demps, Fulvio and Stella Del Bianco, Kim Glazer Goldberg, Sidney and Joyce Pulitzer, and Dottie Reese.
Each of the celebrity dancers rated accolades and gratitude, but one got the coveted People’s Choice Award: Dr. Adil Fatakia.
- ‘Spirit’ Show
Yes, you can go back to school! According to St. Martin’s Episcopal School’s recent on-premises gala, “Show Your Spirit,” days of yore were evoked. Both school gymnasiums were transformed to return guests “to the days of pompoms and pep rallies, with splashes of school colors, red and blue, everywhere.” The theme was inspired by how much the students and parents of St. Martin’s cherish and take pride in their school. What to wear? The invitation stated: “Snappy casual. Wear StM colors.”
Among those saluting “Spirit” were head of school Merry Sorrells and Kim, gala Chairwoman Amy Lawler with Chris, Heidi Gremillion with Adam, Guy Williams (CEO of presenting sponsor Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Company) with Dayle, Larry and Marian Gibbs, Laura and George Mueller, Wesley and Annie Palmisano, Julie and Bennie Relan, and Betsey and Andrew Todd.
The patron party, which was sponsored by St. Martin’s Board of Trustees and had as celeb bartenders Douglas Smith and Jason Kirkpatrick, featured a menu by Dinner Lab with five choice appetizers, starting with smoked trout dip. Brett Jones, chef de cuisine of Dinner Lab New Orleans, was the guest chef. Meanwhile, more than 10 food vendors offered fine fare to feed the flock.
All the while, guests perused the 250-plus offerings in the silent auction and made their bids. As for the live auction, with Tommy Tucker as the celebrity auctioneer, a half dozen items got the going, gone. Dinner with Head of School Merry Sorrells at Ralph’s on the Park, a vacation package to Telluride, Colorado, and other listings elicited good-natured competitiveness. One guest noted “a huge bidding war” over a barbecue smoker donated by the Muellers. Emerging as winners were Marian and Larry Gibbs.
Imaginary Frenz stepped forward to make the music. Appreciated as they were, a host of real friends made meaningful merriment.