Mardi Gras 2013 is now history but boy, did it go out with a bang! Specifically, the 10th anniversary celebration of the Baton Rouge Symphony’s Irene W. & C.B. Pennington Foundation Great Performers in Concert featuring the one and only Diana Ross Feb. 8

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Great Performers

The evening began with a fabulous black-tie VIP gala at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum hosted by Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry and Price LeBlanc Lexus. The champagne was flowing (Veuve Clicquot, no less); lobster, crab, shrimp, beef tenderloin and fried catfish were consumed; and an unbelievably magnificent dessert table held the towering anniversary cake that maestro Timothy Muffitt assisted Paula Pennington de la Bretonne in cutting shortly before the chic-chic crowd headed up the hill to the River Center Theatre for the performance.

Diane and Johnny Tate, who have chaired the Great Performers series since its inception, presented Paula with a bouquet of 10 roses as a thank you for the foundation’s gift of great music to the Capital City. The series has raised $1.2 million for the symphony.

“I want to thank everyone who’s been on this journey with me,” Paula told the sold-out audience. “Hopefully, we’ll make new memories over the next 10 to 20 years.”

This night was a fantastic start. Buddy Linda Mitchell, who unfortunately fell ill and had to head home, upgraded me toher second-row seat to join fellow friends Kelly Thorgeson and Paris Yegge. From here, we could see the facial expressions of violinist Giora Schmidt as he joined the orchestra in performing “Four Seasons Fantasy,” a true showcase of the symphony’s string sections. We all commented on how we were simply exhausted from watching the performance.

Then it came time for Diana, who made her entrance in her signature red gown only this time with a twist. Instead of the stilettos of days gone by, she was wearing sequined sneakers … a woman after my own heart. She changed gowns several times, but the sneakers remained. While she didn’t sing some of my all-time Supremes’ favorites, it was still Diana Ross performing and, more than once, she had us all on our feet clapping, dancing and singing along.

So, how do you follow this? Well, you walk over to the River Center Ballroom where you’re greeted by more champagne and the Mardi Gras Indians for some second lining in the lobby. Then you hear a band tuning up inside the ballroom … it’s Rockin’ Dopsie, who quickly kicks things into high gear. Joining him onstage for a couple of duets is Mayor Kip Holden. I caught them on video and you can watch it online at as well as check out the photos of all the fun. It was also Johnny Tate’s birthday, so naturally we had to sing “Happy Birthday.” What a way to celebrate!!

Jump Start

The Nile Rhythm Band had things hopping at the fifth annual Jump Start Your Heart Valentine Gala Feb. 9 at the Renaissance Hotel. Jump Start Your Heart is a nonprofit organization that seeks to enhance the quality of life of competitive athletes one by one through the identification of cardiovascular abnormalities and detection of the obstructive form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — the most common cause of sudden death in young athletes.

Featured speaker for the evening was Adrianne Veal, mother of the late Shannon Veal, a basketball standout at Glen Oaks High School who collapsed during a game five years ago. It was later learned that she died of undetected heart disease, an enlarged heart. Gala-goers also heard from survivor Shawn Bridgewater. Serving as emcees were Drs. Lydia Sims and Darryl Peterson.

For more information about the organization, visit the website,

McQueen reunion

Since I was already out and about, I said yes when friend Lucy Priddy asked if I’d come by her house for the McQueen family reunion. Family members had traveled from Washington state, Texas and Florida for the celebration, and Lucy was pleased as punch to have all of her children, grandchildren and their cousins under one roof.

Delta Sigma Theta

February has been a busy month for the Baton Rouge Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Baton Rouge Sigma Foundation. It held not one but two events to begin the sorority’s centennial celebration. The first was a public program, Delta’s Commitment to Service, Feb. 1 at the organization’s Life Development Center. Community leaders representing the sorority’s Five-Point Programmatic Thrust and two commissions were honored with the 2013 Commemorative Service Award. The honorees included John Pierre, economic development; former CongressmanCleo Fields, educational development; state Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, political awareness; Edie Staples and Shirley Lolis, physical and mental health; Harriett Pitcher, international awareness; Carolyn Gee and McHenry Jackson, social action; Everett Parker, arts and letters; and the Baton Rouge Weekly Press, represented by the Rev. Ivory Payne.

The following day, the alumnae chapter held its Founders’ Day Luncheon at Boudreaux’s. Chapter President Debra Lawson Ephrom and First Vice President Chi Joseph Franklin presented the 25-, 40- and 50-year members with plaques and gifts.

They included Bernice Stewart Carter, Cheryl McKay Dixon and Brenda P. Moncriffe — 50-year honorees; Claudia J. Fisher, Mildred W. “Winnie” Penson, Blanche E. Page Smith and Yvonne Jean Simmons Whitley — 40-year honorees; and Yvonne McGhee-Thornton, Susan B. Radcliff, Lisa Smith-Vosper, Regina A. Valentine, Kymberly Vincent-McCoy, Jean’quel White-Henry and Kimberly Whitley Moye — 25-year honorees.

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