Gov. John Bel Edwards and first lady Donna Edwards rolled out the welcome mat Jan. 30 to the Governor’s Mansion to honor the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians coterie of princesses and festival queens before they all headed to the nation’s capital for the three days of fun known as Washington Mardi Gras.
Everyone enjoyed a scrumptious brunch of grits and grillades, fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits. The morning’s highlights included the governor crowning this year’s queen — 19-year-old Alexandra Pharr, daughter of Allyson and “Tiger” Mark Pharr III, of Lafayette.
Most of the 23 festival queens came bearing gifts representing their festival for the first family, as did krewe Senior Lt. Mark Ackal, who was celebrating his 40th Washington Carnival. He presented them with a framed print of this year’s official poster, “A High Note."
“You think you’re tired now, but you’re not,” Edwards said, referencing how very, very early the day had begun for the girls across the state. “You’re going to be by Sunday when you head home.”
Among the 37 princesses were Baton Rougeans Marla Susan Aronson, daughter of Laurie and Mark Aronson; Emiliegh Katherine Hayes, daughter of Kevin Hayes; Lindsey Virginia Howell, daughter of Leigh Anne and Nelson Howell; Avery Frances Mann, daughter of Cindy and Bob Mann; Laura Charlotte McKernan, daughter of Shannon and Gordon McKernan; Maurie Lynn Morris, daughter of Sheri and Norman Morris; Gracie Jordan Pace, daughter of Margo and John Pace; and Phoebe Maeve Pellitieri, daughter of Johnathan Pellitteri and the late Nicole Pellitteri.
Representing festivals in the greater Baton Rouge area were queens Caroline Elizabeth Hardy, daughter of Sharla and Kevin Hardy, Farm Bureau; Heidi Rochelle Carrier, daughter of Wendy and Herman Carrier, Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival; Brooke Renée Everett, daughter of Kristen and Cody Braud, Gonzales Jambalaya Festival; and Sierra Deana Jones, daughter of Frances and Michael Jones, Amite Oyster Festival.
The Raising Cane’s River Center Ballroom was a sea of red for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women luncheon on Feb. 1. In her fabulous red pantsuit, Terry Williams was dubbed this year’s Lady in Red, a competition sponsored by the Albemarle Foundation. Two-time winner Kathy Victorian presented her with her sash.
Welcoming the crowd of some 700 was luncheon Chairwoman Kristy McKearn. WBRZ's Sylvia Weatherspoon, mistress of ceremonies, introduced John Turner and Jerry Fischer, who sponsored the Strokes for Strokes art exhibit on display at the luncheon. The traveling exhibit features paintings done by stroke survivors.
Sharing their heart-tugging story were Genevieve Haydel and brother Loumonth Jack Jr., who, at age 20, had two heart attacks. After Bill Conner's daughter, Abbey, died, he donated her heart and other organs. Jack got Abbey's heart. As a surprise to the brother and sister, Conner came out on stage at the luncheon.
Another highlight of the day was the style show featuring models, whose lives had been touched by heart disease or stroke, showcasing the latest fashions from Macy’s. Taking the runway were Haydel and Jack, Sarah Badon, Annie Coco, Ashley Frugé, Chad and Hunter Grandney, Brandi B. Harris, Kathryn Hodges, Charlie Hudson, Karen McDaniel, Delaina Moreau, Rachel Mounce and Brittany Batiste Perkins.
Also, Arabella Polito, Robin Reynolds, Emma Kate Richard, Georgia Richard, Brynn Thompson, Anna Claire and Marin Varnado, Tanna and Avery Vaughn and the Schellack girls — Katie, Grace, Agatha and Elinoah.
On Jan. 29, I dropped in at the kickoff luncheon for the Foundation for Woman's BUST Breast Cancer event, which takes place Sept. 26 at the L'Auberge Event Center. I joined this year's committee members at the chic home of Chairwoman Ruthie Golden. Lots of planning and creativity goes into producing this one-of-a-kind art bra fashion show, which you don’t want to miss!
Charged with signing up models for the show, all of whom are breast cancer survivors, is Courtney Edwards. She’ll be working with model alumni Chairwoman Kathryn Sullivan, along with William Roy and Ashley Hodges, who are taking care of the show’s logistics. Becky Gottsegen and Brien Buxton are coordinating the artists.
Other committee chairmen include Mary Catherine Ogilvie, sponsorship; Lisa Gilly, bra sponsorship; Cristy Heck, auction; Francine Boyd, food and beverage; Daina Tate and Kelly Franks, decorations; Shawn Zeringue and Jeanné Lewis, marketing/public relations; Pam Parker, volunteers; and Amber Moreau, raffle.
My week started Jan. 28 with lunch at Gino’s Italian Restaurant where members of the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society’s executive board had gathered. Guest of honor was Charlie Valluzzo, recipient of this year’s Grace “Mama” Marino Lifetime Achievement Award. The local McDonald’s franchise owner will receive the award at the six-course Fête Rouge dinner July 11 at the Renaissance.
Joining Charlie at the luncheon were wife Nancy, son Patrick and son John and his wife Krista. Humbled and delighted by the honor, Charlie shared how he came to Baton Rouge and became the McDonald’s man 40 years ago.
For tickets to the dinner, Fête du Vin high-end wine tasting April 11 at Juban’s and Fête Rouge Food & Wine Fête Aug. 23 at the L’Auberge Event Center, log on to bresbr.org.
Later that evening, I popped in for a quick photo at the Diocese of Baton Rouge’s annual Catholic Schools Week kickoff dinner. Welcoming the 100-plus guests was Melanie Verges, superintendent of Catholic schools. Featured speaker was Joe McTighe, recently retired executive director for the Council for American Private Education. The Rev. Cleo Milano, of Our Lady of Mercy and recipient of the Distinguished Catholic School Clergy Award, gave the night’s opening prayer.
His fellow honorees included Marilyn Smith, St. Joseph School in Ponchatoula, Distinguished Catholic School Educator; and Jack Nelson, St. George Catholic School, Distinguished Catholic School Administer.
Recognized as Distinguished Alumni were Raymond Scott Calandro, Sacred Heart of Jesus School; Ledoux Joseph Chastant, Redemptorist High School; Ronnie Collette, Redemptorist St. Gerard School; Mandy Poché Cushing, St. Jude the Apostle School; Cheryl Lynn Domino, St. Francis Xavier School; Alyson Michelle LaBorde, St. Michael the Archangel High School; Sherie Noël LeBlanc, St. Thomas More School; Delores “Dee” Noël LeJeune, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University; Honey Nesbit Lundin, St. George School; Sister Helen Prejean, St. Joseph’s Academy; Renée Bergeron Richard, Our Lady of Mercy School; Stacy Boudreaux Steimel, Most Blessed Sacrament School; Daniel Joseph Wolf, St. Jean Vianney School; Jane Wood, St. Aloysius School, and Perry Key, Catholic High School.
Also, Allison Owens, Holy Family School in Port Allen; Patrick Gerard Coudrain, Holy Ghost School in Hammond; Dustin Edward Cornett, St. Theresa Avila School/St. John Primary in Gonzales; Charles Anthony Fagan, Mater Delorosa School in Independence; Paige Theresa Fancheaux, St. Peter Chanel School in Paulina; Emily Ann Thibodeaux Boudreaux, St. Joseph Elementary School in Ponchatoula; Ronald Chris Gulino, St. Alphonsus Ligouri School in Central; Janea Claire Jamison, St. Elizabeth School in Paincourtville; Nicholas Joseph Muscarello Jr., St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Hammond; and Sue Wilbert Turner, St. John Interparochial School in Plaquemine.