We all know folks here love to party. And, while we have fun at each and every soiree, there's always those hosts who go that extra mile. Here are our picks for 2018’s Top 10 Parties for the Capital City, and one lagniappe for the best home-away-from-home event.
‘One Love for Louisiana’
There just might not be enough adjectives to describe the three-day party in the nation's capital known as Washington Mardi Gras. The banner proclaiming the bar in the Washington, D.C, Hilton as the 65th parish pretty much summed up the 70th-anniversary celebration of the Mystick Krewe of Louisianans on Jan. 25-27.
No doubt, this was the Most Spectacular Party of the Year.
Louisianans pretty much took over the city as we celebrated "One Love for Louisiana" — the perfect play on King Todd Graves' "One Love" Raising Cane's slogan.
The king hosted the most fabulous party at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium on Jan. 26. The French-style masquerade showcased Louisiana cuisine from chef John Folse. Then everyone hit the dance floor to Better Than Ezra (Todd’s favorite college band) and Flo Rida.
At the Jan. 27 ball, Graves introduced Cane III, an adorable yellow Lab puppy, as Raising Cane’s new mascot. Watching the "President's Own Marine Corps Band" parade into the ballroom to perform the national anthem was definitely a goose-bump-inducing moment.
When the clock struck midnight, the ball ended and kicked off the Celtic-themed breakfast hosted by Queen Anna Reilly, daughter of Jennifer and Sean Reilly. Anna and the krewe princesses and Louisiana festival queens took to the dance floor and, eventually, the stage, to rock the room with the band Souled Out. They lured the older generation out with a not-to-be-resisted set of Motown hits. Old-school style rules!
1. Sizzlin’ Soirée
The Live Oak Arabians horse ring was totally transformed on Oct. 27 for the Sizzlin’ Soirée hosted by Wayne and Lucy Stabiler to benefit the Navy Seal Foundation.
A floor went down, chandeliers went up, and white lights and swaths of sheer fabric created a lovely ambiance, the perfect backdrop for the beef tenderloin and lobster dinner served with fine wines.
The night’s live auction, conducted by Whitney Vann and Gordy Rush, brought in $51,000 for a custom-designed rifle that featured the name of fallen Seal Team 6 Chief Special Warfare Operator Nicholas Cheque. Combined with the rest of the bids, an impressive $82,600 was raised. The night wrapped up with dancing to the V-Tones.
I haven’t seen a Baton Rouge audience have as much fun as they did at Chicago’s performance with the Baton Rouge Symphony’s Pennington Great Performers in Concert on the night of March 16 at the Raising Cane’s River Center Theatre. To celebrate the nomination of their historic album “Chicago II” into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the band played the entire album for the first half of its sold-out show. How many times did you slow dance to “Colour My World?”
The audience gave the band several standing ovations throughout the concert, and then they were back on their feet singing along, clapping and dancing in place to the last three songs of the night.
As always, the night began with an elegant black-tie gala sponsored by Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry and Price LeBlanc Lexus at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum.
3. Emerge into The Journey
Just when you think it can't get any better, once again The Emerge Center’s event topped last year's efforts. On May 19, the Emerge into The Journey party was a winner with former Journey lead singer Steve Augeri and his band. It was journey none of us will ever forget, especially Victor Howell, who fulfilled a lifelong dream when Augeri invited him onstage to perform “Don’t Stop Believin.’ ” Dressed as 1980s wrestler Nature Boy, (guests were challenged to come in their favorite 1980s attire) Victor took the mic and rocked it — impressing Augeri and the crowd, which showed its love by raising the roof on the 14th Street Warehouse, which had been totally transformed.
4. Storybook Soirée
Guests went down the rabbit hole for the Knock Knock Children’s Museum’s debut Storybook Soirée on Nov. 16. The three-story museum became Alice’s "Wonderland," complete with Mad Hatter (portrayed by Ford Thomas) and performance artists.
Many of the guests came in costume, which made for a very festive evening. Among them were founders Cricket Gordon and husband Stewart, Cate Heroman and Staci Duhé, who was accompanied by her costume-clad family.
5. ‘The Gala Goes Gatsby’
When Cancer Services merged with Mary Bird Perkins — Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center in early 2018, it created a fundraising quandary. Both entities were well known for two of the city’s longest-running culinary events — Capital Chefs Showcase and The Taste. Which one would survive?
Neither. But what a fab party took their place!
A huge crowd of flapper girls and dapper gents filled the L’Auberge Event Center on Sept. 13 for “The Gala Goes Gatsby." From the decorations to the delicious food dished up by some of the city’s top restaurants and caterers, to the classic Roaring '20s cocktails and music by Ned Fasullo & The Fabulous Big Band Orchestra, it was one spectacular party.
Also spectacular was the impressive $100,000-plus raised in the night’s live auction, thanks in no small part to LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri, chef Jay Ducote and auctioneer Brian Fourroux.
6. ‘In Motion’
The Louisiana Arts & Science Museum took inspiration from its exhibit of New Orleans artist Lin Emery’s sculptures for the "In Motion" theme of its gala on Oct. 5. The 92-year-old artist’s kinetic sculptures feature polished aluminum shapes set in motion by wind, water or magnets.
The place was packed for what is always one of the year’s most anticipated events, chaired this year by Preston Bailey. Champagne and other libations flowed as everyone enjoyed dishes from some of the city’s finest caterers and restaurants. Once again, Ned Fasullo & the Fabulous Big Band Orchestra enticed couples onto the dance floor. And everyone thanked the always inspirational Winnie Byrd and Sue Turner, who helped save the old train depot that is now LASM. I think they’ve been to all 33 galas and chaired several, as well.
7. Masquerade Ball
Most members and guests of the City Club were sporting masks and decked out in their finest for the club's elegant 60+1 Masquerade Ball on Oct. 25. Adding a bit of French flair to the night were the 18th century-attired female stilt dancers, who moved seamlessly from room to room. Also eliciting oohs and aahs from guests was the fantastic food and drinks.
8. Best Dressed
The annual Best Dressed Ball is always a great party and this year's was no exception. The benefit for the American Cancer Society was held Aug. 11 at Raising Cane’s River Center. As guests arrived, former Best Dressed honoree Dixon McMakin worked the red carpet and the paparazzi, aka See-Hear Productions, got the party shots.
In the spotlight as tons of confetti rained down were honorees Shannon Barksdale Mahon, Dr. Kenny Civello, Brooke Bickley, David Lanoix, Shannon Blackstone Smith, Al Landry, state Rep. Paula Davis, Jody Montelaro, Dr. Wendy Do, Richie Edmonds, Erin Mosely, Ty McMains, Kristy Parks, Kurt Ainsworth, Jeanne Robert, Mike Polito, Kim Truesdale, Ryan Clark, Ashley Uter and Prescott Bailey.
Raising Cane’s founder and local philanthropists Todd and Gwen Graves were presented this year’s Julia Woods Dickinson “Heart & Soul” award by last year’s winners Carla and Dan Jumonville.
While the night was all about a good time, there was a higher purpose. A $50,000 pledge by Ryan and Raven Jumonville kicked off the “Fund the Mission” drive, which raised an impressive $340,000 to help in the fight against cancer.
The night wrapped up with dancing to the sounds of Az-Izz and a grab-and-go McDonald’s midnight snack compliments of Valluzzo Companies.
9. Dancing for Big Buddy
The salsa, the Houston 2Step, hip-hop and the jive added up for a big night of fun for a great cause — the 12th annual Dancing for Big Buddy on April 28 at the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The evening, emceed by WBRZ’s Sylvia Weatherspoon and John Pastorek, was dedicated to the memory of Terry Serio, a former Big Buddy board president and founder of this event. Her friend and former board member Terri LeBlanc announced the creation of a scholarship in her name for a Little Buddy to pursue a degree in the arts.
When all the applause-o-meter results were read, this year’s Audience Favorite Dancers were the dentists — pediatric dentist Johnnie Hunt Bond and professional partner River Peterson and orthodontist Steve Sherman and professional partner Jerisse Grantham. After the show, the after-party continued at Mansurs on the Boulevard.
10. Golden Deeds
The Golden Deeds awards isn’t known for being a splashy party, even though it is one of the highest honors given to an area citizen. But when the 77th annual award went to former WAFB news anchor Donna Britt, well, that changed everything. Britt's battle with ALS forced her to step away from the news desk earlier this year after 37 years at the station.
The love and affection of the entire community was palpable as the night’s featured speaker, District Attorney Hillar Moore, crowned Donna the “first lady of Baton Rouge broadcasting.” Mayor Sharon Weston Broome proclaimed it Donna Britt Day throughout the parish and presented Donna with the key to the city. “I’d love to see that door,” quipped Donna. “It’ll open any door you want,” assured the mayor.