Nell Nolan: Magic in the moonlight in the botanical garden, Gala Excelencia de la Chambre Hispanique | Holidays / Society
Would it be magic?
The answer was yes when Magic in the Moonlight took place in the New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park on a recent Thursday evening. Considered one of the “coolest events” in town and the main fundraiser for the Botanical Garden, it was a sold-out party. Being outside was – and is – a constant asset, embracing the beautiful weather in October.
In 1936 the seeds for the garden were planted and now, 85 years later, the magnificent 10 acres feature the work of such talents as – all deceased – architect Richard Koch, landscape architect William Wiedorn and sculptor Enrique Alférez .
More recently, and 25 years ago, Geneviève “Gen” Trimble established the New Orleans Botanical Garden Foundation. Because of her “tireless work to restore and improve the garden”, she was honored at “Magic”, albeit in absentia. At 100, she was unable to attend but was warmly appreciated for her contributions and vision.
Team to co-chair Lightness 2021 were Renée and Paul Masinter and Catherine and Will Hales, while Dr. Meredith Maxwell and Stephane Morel were the honorary presidents. The 2020 dinner, which they spearheaded, could not take place due to COVID-19. Another director was Dessa Giffin (attend with her husband David), the president of the Botanical Garden Foundation. The headliners of the staff are the director Paul Soniat, Administrative Officer Darlene Duffard and, for special events, Melisa Newell.
Sponsors and their guests showed up early for the fundraiser, at a VIP time in the Deux Sœurs Arrival Garden and Conservatory, where tasty appetizers were handed out. The dinner, and its many creative dishes, was created by the chef Chris Anderson from Joel’s Grand Cuisine and served along the main axis of the Botanical Garden under the stars. Adorning candlelit tables, rectangular centerpieces of white hydrangeas, lisianthus and freesia from Dunn & Sonnier and the Garden Study Club.
Appreciating all the glories of the evening have been Vincent Giardina, Karl and Lisa Hoefer, Tommy Westervelt, Caroline and Bo Reily, Anne Abbott, Muffin Balart, Diane Rose, Rene Fransen and Eddy Bonin, Carro and Billy Gardner, Laura and Sonny Shields, Liz and Poco Sloss, Barbara and David Waller , Sandra and Arthur Pulitzer, Rita May and Tom Ward, Pam and Jay Bryan, Kay and John Colbert, Sally Duplantier, Stephen and Nancy Hales, and Marla Donovan.
They and a host of others made it to the auction. Several North Carolina getaways have proven popular, as has a culinary stay at Chloe and a Fish Hawk dinner in the Botanical Garden’s outdoor kitchen.
More in the “Magic” scenario were Meg and Hunter Charbonnet, Joel Daste, Vivian and Richard Cahn, Claire and Harry Stahel, Dana and Steve Hansel, Rebecca and Dan Lester, Anne Redd, Jackie and Bruce Shreves, Margo DuBos, Sue and Mike Guarisco, Gigi Matthews, and Cheryl and James Grevemberg. Gratitude galore has benefited City Park Casie Duplechain and Rebecca Ducert and their crew.
With “Moonlight” there had to be music. The Raphael Bas Amused trio during aperitif and dinner. Later, DJ Anne Glaviano: Heatwave set the tone for the after party at the Conservatoire des Deux Sœurs. At this point, “Magic” has taken on another muse.
On a recent Friday night at the Hyatt Regency, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce assembled an optional black-tie assembly for its 2021 Excelencia Gala, Dinner Dance, and Silent Auction. It also celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month and September Independence Day for nine Latin American countries. Mayra Pineda is the president and CEO of the chamber.
Upon entering the party premises, guests were duly impressed by the stunning decorations made by Mardi Gras Productions of beautiful green foliage and white dendrobium orchids to suggest a tropical evening. White table linens and special lighting were further improvements. Other features include the Republic National Distributing Company Specialty Bar with a Swift 75, Pomegranate Tequila Cosmo, and an Absolut Watermelon Martini as the featured cocktail trio.
In terms of culinary attractions, the acclaimed chef of the hotel Ivan Didelot thanks for the deliciousness during the cocktail, as well as the dinner menu of a ceviche-style mango and white fish salad, a main course of horneado lechon (slowly roasted pork leg) and a flan dessert with a New Orleans flair.
Each year, the Excelencia Awards are presented to exceptional individuals and / or organizations. Those just highlighted were Shell, Corporate Partner; Hancock Whitney Bank, President’s Choice; the Hispanic apostolates of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, community partner; V. Janet Brewster, Brewster Supply, Small Business; and, from the port of New Orleans, Cathy Alphonse, Young chef.
The silent auction of a hundred items seduced by autographed sports memorabilia from Drew Brees (a football of the Saints) and Alvin kamara (a swimsuit); travel destinations to Florida and Las Vegas; stays at the Hyatt Regency, Hotel Monteleone and Hotel Higgins; and jewelry from Lee michaels and Cristy Cali.
The notables savoring “Excelencia” were the Vice President and Director of Gulf Coast Bank Marcel Gonzalez and wife Alice, President of the Consolidated Government Lafayette Carlos Harvin, President of the World Trade Center New Orleans Ed Webb, José Amadeo human health and Denise, Dr. Blanca Maldonado, Dr. Salvador and Luz Caputto, Michael Dirnbauer and Gina Bertrand from Tulane University and Delgado Community College, Kelvin Gibson. Also savoring the revelry (and with titles) were Rocsean spencer and husband Duane, Jacqueline Simon, Sonia A. Oliva, Ernesto Schweikert, and Samantha washington with husband Troy. To name just a few of the galas that heeded COVID’s advice and looked forward to the chance to fraternize.
All cheerfulness is even more with the music, and Julio y Cesar y Su Banda rose to the occasion brilliantly.