Yule Be Glad

Flower Power

“El Festival de las Flores,” in the Hyatt Regency, headlined the recent Azucar Ball given by (and to benefit) The New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation and presented by Pan American Life Insurance Group. Using a spin on the theme from Colombia’s such festival, the local event reveled in all that was floral, as seen in stunning backdrops and lush arrangements. Guests were even encouraged to wear flower crowns. Mary Petikas and Mullady Voelker bloomed as the ball co-chairwomen, with committee assistance from Elsa Baker, Maria Bonilla, Luz Caputto, Cristi Fowler Chauvin, Paola Corrada, Jose Cruz, Marla Donovan, Eva Sandoval Elias, George F. Fowler III, Ashley Garcia, Juan J. Gershanik, Minnie Guas, Heidi Kiesling, Adriana Lopez, Blanca Rosa Maldonado, Gabriela Molina, Cuqui Moore, Nicole Caridad Ralston, Belinda Flores Shinshillas (appropriately named!), Kelly Theard, Maria Leon Vallejo, Ramon Vallejo, and Ileana Suquet, president of the New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation. Husband Jose Suquet, Pan American’s chairman, president and CEO, joined her.

More foundation brass are Vice Presidents George Fowler and Alex Gershanik, treasurer Max Moreno, secretary Helen Flammer, 18 board members and six on the advisory board: Edgar L. Chase III, Richard F. Cortizas, Ivonne Echegarrua, Martin Gutierrez, Pamela Ryan and Dagmar Vichot. Raul V. Fonte is the executive director.

A Herbsaint-sponsored patron party launched the levity that had signature cocktails by Victory NOLA, a raffle drawing of a gold and diamond necklace donated by Friend & Company, and the beat of Julio y Cesar. Then it was on to the ball with music by Julio y Cesar, Javier Olondo y Asheson and special guest Fermin Ceballos, DJ Felipe Estrada, and dancing couple Carlos & Maureen. Royal Event Rental did the decor, Dunn and Sonnier the floral designs, and Fat Happy Media the photography and videography. More than 32 restaurants fed the “Flores” flock, who made repeated tracks to the Dessert Room.

Each year, the crowning moment is the presentation of the Galvez Cup. Radiant as the 2017 recipient was Jenny  Hamilton (with husband/”best friend” Ewell Smith), executive director of The New Orleans Ballet Association since 1998, who has shown dedication to diversity in showcasing dance groups from many countries, quite a few Hispanic.

Among the many noted were Jon Teeuwissen, Arnaldo “Arnie” Perez, state Rep. Helena Moreno, Terence and Henrietta Ramirez Hall, Ana Gershanik with Juan, Dr. and Mrs. Patrick Quinlan, Jeanie and Claiborne Perrilliat, and hundreds more, who bounded out to the dance floor. Many never left, giving credit to the dancingest party in town.

Arts for AIDS Sake

Club XLIV of Champions Square was transformed into “Winter Wonderland” for the 31st annual Art Against AIDS Gala in support of CrescentCare HIV/AIDS services through NO/AIDS Task Force. Particularly thanked were title sponsor Chevron and presenting event sponsor Avita Pharmacy. “Watermelon Man,” by master printmaker Phillip Sage, the event’s honorary chairman, was donated by Catherine Roland in memory of her friend and crusader against AIDS, Al McNairn, who died in 1989. Rodney Thoulion “won” the artwork. Another top bidder in the auction of 200-plus items was John Alva Groth II, who got Carlos Lopez’s “Southern Tear” oyster painting.

Troy Powell, Wayne Christenberry, Tony Lala and Young’s Cleaners created the winter wonderland decor; the retail area was renamed in memory of longtime volunteer Larry Mercier; food was abundant; and down-to-earth "American Idol" finalist David Hernandez headlined the gala, which was held in memory of Sister Marcy Romine, OSF, Rip Naquin, Larry Mercier, Neysa Fanwick, and Rajiv Shah.

Milling about were David Lumpkin, Richard Sacher and Kevin Joyce, Dr. Jody Gates and Marilyn McConnell, Marc Behar and Jeff Sbisa, Craig Guidry, Raymond Manci and John Brennan, Suzy Montero, Clarence and Julie Cavignac, new Ambush magazine owners Tony Acosta and Frank Pizzaloto, Cindy O’Donnell, Peter Jolet and Ronn Babin, and Shawn Carroll. Noel Twilbeck Jr. is CrescentCare’s CEO.

To set the night to music, Jazzbird kicked off the patron party. Then came Roux the Day and its dance selections that wowed the crowd.

Sidereal Excitement

Young Audiences' eighth annual Dancing for the Arts Gala took place at The Civic Theatre with, as pairs, Christine Guillory and Ector Gutierrez (tango), Punkin Habet and Javier Juarez (salsa), Carl Mack and Lindsey Zan (jitterbug), Dr. Jane Miller and Stephen Howard (quickstep), Ben Sherman and Katarina Boudreaux (Texas two-step), and siblings Tai and Roderic Teamer. Sandra Herman and Jay Hendrix had planned a waltz, but she was unable to attend. Huddled as judges were Tamika Jett, Dennis Lomonaco, Kenny Lopez, and event founder Beverly Matheney. Each performer won an award with Christine Guillory as both People’s Choice and Sizzling Swagger.

The Superstar sponsor was Delta Airlines and the Icon category had Sizeler Thompson Brown Architects and Whitney Bank.

Aspiring artists led by Young Audiences' teaching artist Todd Shaffer created the centerpieces; a mural for guests’ pictures was done by Young Audiences Charter School’s students; and a 36-item silent auction, chaired by Anita Demps and Allison Kupperman (with Shane), was in the bar lobby. Turning every head was the Champagne-skirted model. To please the palate of the 250 guests, Black Pearl Catering Co. purveyed hors d’oeuvres and full dinner. Pecan baklava was the sweet treat.

Some high-profilers were event Chairwomen Stella del Bianco and Florence Smith with spouses Fulvio and John, mistress of ceremonies Camille Whitworth, and from Young Audiences of Louisiana, board President Rite Moisio, past prez Macon Moore, and CEO Rickie Nutik with Gordon. Others were Tamara and Chris Wyre, Mary and Peter Nass, Billy and Jane Sizeler, TJ Mesidor, Cheryl Teamer, Ana and Juan Gershanik, and Crystal Ferbos Duplessis and Royce.

Feliz Navidad!

The Sociedad Espanola Christmas Banquet had the gorgeously decorated Metairie Country Club as its site for the elegant ado. Red poinsettias and votive candles topped the tables, while the ballroom was embellished with Christmas greens, white lights and a large Spanish flag draped over the welcoming table. When guests sat to dine, they enjoyed turtle soup, a main course choice, and, for dessert, a Christmas Yule log with “Feliz Navidad” playing as background music.

Sociedad President Vivian Coutin started the festivities with a demonstration of the traditional Spanish language of the fan. To follow suit, each lady received a red and black fan with the Spanish Crest. Following dinner, she conducted a Christmas raffle of wines from Spain and holiday decorations.

Delighting in the banquet were Dr. Gustavo Coutin with Vivian, Helene and Dr. Alfredo Lopez, Lil and Gerardo Viera, Maria and Ramon Vallejo, Bertha and Francisco Merchan, Graziella and Andima Ayerdi, Andres Rodriguez, and Ashley Pradel, granddaughter of the late Juanita Pradel. Also, Elena and Eugene Countiss, Cuqui Moore, Dr. Eileen Doll, Lita Chesnut and son Stephen, Drs. Alfredo and Soffie Botero, and Beatriz and Dr. Manuel Lopez. Revving up the revelry were music makers Julio y Cesar.