Nell Nolan: Blue Rose Ball, Amistad “Soundtrack,” Ivan Acosta Coffee. | Nell Nolan

Nell Nolan: Blue Rose Ball, Amistad “Soundtrack,” Ivan Acosta Coffee. | Nell Nolan

Bright Notes!

Peace, Love, Levity

The invitation’s cover featured colorful swirls and the wording “Peace/Love/St. Michael Special School” to announce the 2018 Blue Rose Ball. Extending the invitation were the school’s children.

Occurring on a very recent Saturday evening in the Hyatt Regency Hotel (also the patron party sponsor), the black tie-bash bannered “All You Need Is Love” as a theme and used decorations accordingly, thanks to Mardi Gras Productions. Among the features were a Step and Repeat by the escalator; PEACE/LOVE/SMS hedge walls in front of the entrance to the event; patron party lounges with white sofas; and orchid centerpieces that differed for the circular and “King” sponsor tables. The former tables had multicolored satin tablecloths, while the “King” ones had gold linens, atop which were stemless wineglasses hand painted by the students.

The lead sponsor was the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Foundation (with special thanks to Vince Giardina, Lynne Burkart and Lisa Romano), while the Blue Roses donors were Angel Wings Foundation, Marjory B. and E.J. Ourso Foundation, Gary and Martha Solomon, Patrick F. Taylor Foundation and John and Joanna Theriot, who co-chaired the gala event with SMS parent Lori Ourso Babin, whose son, Philip Babin, attends the upper school. Twenty-nine members formed the ball committee.

Further features included a menu of gumbo, blackened Atlantic salmon and flourless chocolate cake; a Wine Pull; the Wine Glass Raffle; a silent auction of 24 choice items, including offerings by St. Michael students; and a live auction with Sueann and Brian North, the Theriots and Cindy Ann Ourso and John and Stephanie Ourso as donors.

Mark Romig acted as master of ceremonies, Archbishop Gregory Aymond gave the invocation, SMS President and Principal Tish Sauerhoff made remarks and introduced the video, and the gala’s chairmen were recognized. Applause abounded.

Amassing for the merriment were Cindy Paulin, Michael and Nancy Favaloro, Anne Raymond, Kevin Colomb and Nancy, Camille and Jackie Cutrone, Maureen and Whit Huguley and son/student Geordie, David and Jeanne  Gallo (a SMS board member as are several of the following), Joe and Debbie Exnicios, Superintendent of the Office of Catholic Schools Dr. RaeNelle Houston, Adele Uddo, Randy and DeeDee King, Ann Heslin, Darbi and Ric Philibert, Charles Henry, the Rev. Kurt Young and Joe and Claire Bennett. To mention a few of the sold-out crowd of 800, who support the mission of St. Michael Special School in providing a Catholic environment where students with special education needs are able to grow in faith and reach their full potential — academically, socially and physically. Tuition covers less than 50 percent of per capita cost to educate each student: thus the Blue Rose Ball and Chef’s Charity for Children serve as major fundraisers.

Cocktails, dinner and dancing was the social trifecta for the ball, which enjoyed a surprise appearance by The New Orleans Mystics and their R&B, soul sounds and Motown hits. Four Unplugged, the headlining band, made sure that everyone was connected on the dance floor.

Crescent City Sounds

The Amistad Research Center Board of Directors cordially invited supporters to “Soundtrack of New Orleans: An Evening of Telling New Orleans’ Story through Music.” Who could resist that come-on? It celebrated the city’s 300th anniversary, as well as its unique history and music, and the 52nd anniversary of Amistad.

The honorary co-chairmen were Theon Wilson and Ronald Carrere Jr. and the honorees and their categories were the Marsalis family, Arts and Culture; Liberty Bank President and CEO Alden J. McDonald Jr., Civic Leadership; and Community Bookstore founder Vera Warren Williams, Community Service. The event in the Orpheum Theater featured performances by nationally renowned singers and musicians including jazz flutist and composer Claudia Hayden, along with Germaine Bazzle, Deacon John Moore, Sheila Kay Davis, Sharon Martin, Michaela Harrison and the Rebirth Brass Band.

Robust applause came from Sheriff Marlin and Renee Gusman, Judge Kern and Dottie Reese, Bill Rouselle, Judge Ethel Julian, Theon Wilson, James Carter, Deborah Elam and Carey Grant, former U.S. Rep. William “Bill” and Dr. Andrea Jefferson, Byron and Tracey Stewart, Essence Harris, Dr. Charles Teamer, Glenda McKinley, Dr. Kya Robottom, Ronnie and Sheila Burns, the Rev. and Mrs. Calvin Wood, Sheba Turk, Greg Lambousy, Parker Griffith and scores more, who got in the “Soundtrack” groove.

Cuban Celebrity

Iván Acosta, author, playwright, film maker and theater director presented his film, “El Super,” and his book, “With a Cuban Song in the Heart/Con Una Cancion Cubana en el Corazon,” during events in the Crescent City. He was co-sponsored by the New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation (which has Raul V. Fonte as the executive director) and Tulane University’s Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute in a series of events to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. The multi-hyphenated Acosta is originally from Santiago, Cuba, and now lives in New York.

The film screening took place in Tulane’s Jones Hall with a reception following and the book presentation (with musical accompaniment by the Alexey Marti Trio) in the Freeman Auditorium. A reception and book signing followed in the Newcomb Art Museum.

Collaborating as well on Acosta’s visit were the Newcomb Art Museum, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, Park View Historic Hotel, St. Mary’s Dominican High School and Beatriz Ball New Orleans, which is known for handsome tableware and home décor pieces. Unique aluminum metal ware is used.

The beautiful Garden District home of Beatriz Ball was the site for a private coffee in honor of Acosta. Guests savored Cuban coffee and pastelitos de guayaba from Norma’s Bakery as they mingled in the home’s spacious rooms. Different types of floral arrangements embellished various rooms, while the dining room was centered with a handsome Beatriz Ball centerpiece filled with flowing ferns and flanked by antique candelabra.

Hostess Ball greeted her guests, including coffee organizer Cuqui Moore, NOHHF President Ileana Suquet, NOHHF Cultural Committee Chairwoman Luz Caputto, Tulane’s Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute Director Ana Lopez, Cynthia Bassich, Barbara Beckman, Sociedad Espanola President Vivian Coutin, Lourdes Fanjul, Carmen Duncan, Elena Countiss, Blanca Rosa Maldonado, Vallerie Maurice, Sandra Cordray, Maria Leon-Vallejo, Chamber President Mayra Pineda, Claudia Shabetai and Club Cubano de New Orleans President Lil Viera.

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