Humans were exhorted to hightail it to Audubon Zoo to “Celebrate Spider Monkeys” as the clever come-on for the 2023 Hancock Whitney Zoo-To-Do. An expansion of the monkeys’ habitat and efforts of conservation were the festive focus for this top Crescent City fundraiser. Chevron and Lexus of New Orleans added significant $upport.
A week prior to the adults’ ado, Zoo-To-Do for Kids 2023, presented by Children’s Hospital New Orleans LCMC Health, unfolded in the iconic zoo with family fun at the fore. While attendees snacked and sipped, they were thrilled with the giant inflatables, live animal encounters and arcade games. Toddlers had their own area. Live performances and strolling entertainment added to the youthful To-Do chaired by Meg Baldwin, whose husband, Will, was a member of the 104-person committee. Included were Carol Starr and Betsy Laborde, the respective 2022 and 2023 ZTD for Kids chairmen.
In 1972, Mrs. Brooke H. Duncan, Kitty, chaired the initial Zoo-To-Do. Since then a succession of important women in the community have stepped up to the party plate as chairmen. Within the past decade, the names to know are Mmes. E. Archie Manning (2013), Michele T. Reynoir, Peter L. Freeman, Murray A. Calhoun, William B. Reily IV, Ludovico Feoli, J. Kelly Duncan, Bradley G. Gottsegen (2020-2021) and Gordon H. Kolb Jr. (2022). Add to that prestigious list Mrs. Richard M. Currence Jr., Mathilde, who mastheaded the most recent merriment, the 45th. Quite a few of the former chairmen figured on the 2023 committee that encompassed, as headings, Auction, Auction Display, Auction Volunteer, Decorations, Invitation, Office Appreciation, Patron, Raffle, Restaurant, and Sponsor. All of them were braided into the success of the bash.
Along with the ZTD stalwarts were VIPs from Hancock Whitney, as well as the event’s major sponsors. With summer approaching, many turned out in “white linen or black tie for the gentlemen” and, for the ladies, “cocktail attire.” Sensible shodding made its mark for the legions who coursed the capacious grounds.
More mastheading names on the printed program were L. Ronald Forman, president and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute; 13 honorary ZTD chairmen, including Gov. and Mrs. John Bel Edwards and Mayor LaToya Cantrell; Willard L. Dumas Jr., Audubon Nature Institute Board chairman, who succeeded Lynes R. “Poco” Sloss; and Audubon Commission President J. Kelly Duncan, a son of the late Kitty.
The Friday fête, as listed in the evening’s program, began with a sponsor party in the Jerome S. Glazer Audubon Tea Room & Garden and the patron party in the nearby patron lounge and patio. Eye-catching decorations, floral and otherwise, caught the collective eye. The gala unfolded expansively on the grounds of Audubon Zoo, where people flocked to the Lexus Vehicle Raffle (the tickets were sold out), the silent auction, Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry — Pick-A-Present, specialty cocktails (such as the “French 72” in the Tea Room Field) and the dozens of dinner offerings. Grazing and gazing are always lures at this levity. And to cap of the caper, the Late Night Lounge near the Sea Lion Pool featured potato chips; cheese quesadillas and iced coffee from Audubon Catering; and assorted desserts.
More attractions were Hancock Whitney’s pixie dust biodegradable glitter (at the “watering hole”) and its photo booth; the roaming Boogie Booth and the Krewe des Fleurs; and the music. Striking up the sounds were Vivaz, Jose Fermin and Merengue-Four, and Geovane Santos Duo. Appropriately chosen for this Atelidae ado was the headline entertainment, The Phunky Monkeys.
“Perfect weather,” was the description given by 2023 ZTD chairman Mathilde Currence, who recognized the loyalty that so many people have to the event, as well as the extraordinary support of the past chairmen, all “queens.”
In social summary, the tout to the prehensile tail, and the celebrated spider monkeys, added another wildly successful tale to the ZTD’s annals — and animals. This time, it was a stupendous simian salute.
Half Shell: Full Sell
“An Evening Benefiting A Studio in the Woods” was the verbal draw for the fundraiser, Studio on the Half Shell. Oysters, seafood, desserts and more by Pêche, Carmo, Mosquito Supper Club, BitterSweet Confections, Tropicalia Kitchen, and Laura Arrowood Catering; “Wet Your Whistle” with a cocktail by Cure; the hosting of Alicia Franck and Brinkley Serkedakis (who opened their Garden District home) with Dr. Liz Marcell and District Attorney Jason Williams; and a silent auction were among the attractions.
So were the presentations by recent resident artists Anya Groner, a reading from her upcoming novel “Some Bright Morning”; Milagros Collective, that’s Felici Asteinza and Joey Fillastre with their “Crud Buddies” display; Nailah Jefferson, an excerpt-screening of her film “Vanishing Pearls: The Oystermen of Pointe a La Hache; and Virginia Hanusik, an exhibition of several photos from her series “All the Good Earth.” Terence Blanchard protogée Quina Lynell provided the soirée’s musical notation. She was the 2017 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition winner. The dress suggested elicited a plethora of smiles — and compliance. Stated was, “Break out of your shell with pearls and seaworthy cocktail attire.”
A dozen or so event sponsors rated hearty thanks. Money raised supports A Studio in the Woods, “a secluded and protected haven for artists (in the protected forest on the Mississippi River).” A program of Tulane University’s ByWater Institute, it is “one of the leading artistic and academic residency programs in the Gulf South region.”
“Half Shell” hobnobbers included Tina Freeman and Philip Woollam, Jen and Taylor Fuselier, state Rep. Randel L. Gaines, Linetta Gilbert, David Hoover and Scott Hutcheson, Libra LaGrone Pealer and Cassius Pealer, Friends of A Studio in the Woods Board Chair Yiva Rouse, Tulane ByWater Institute Director John Sabo, Monique Verdin, Regina and Luis Zervigon, Renee Peck, Honorary Consul of Switzerland Alexandra “Sasha” Mora and other troopers and tastemakers.
Women Leading for a Greater New Orleans
Always a popular event, the Mint Julep Party given by the Junior League of New Orleans, amasses s slew of sustaining members to honor one of their own, the 2023 Sustainer of the Year. The most recent honor befell Elizabeth “Liz” Creel, who embodies the League’s spirit of voluntarism and service to others. The JLNO president of 2005-2006, she was deeply involved in her four son’s school and their many activities, and now gives her time to her church parish, Boys Hope Girls Hope, and the unification of community members in the Bayou Teche region. She also operates the Park View Historic Hotel, where she expresses her “innate hospitality.” Dr. Terry Creel is her husband.
The Mint Julep event took place at the home of a former Sustainer of the Year, Katie Crosby, whose mother, Judy Andry, was in attendance as was the honoree’s, Nancy Adams. So were Holly Paczak and Ashley Llewellyn, the respective president and president-elect at that time. A gavel passing has just ensued.
Steve Baker did the flowers in the Crosby home and Chez Nous catered. Among those noted were past SotY recipients Julia Bland, Melanee Usdin, Janet Bean, Margo Phelps, Margaret Wall and Julie George, as well as Laura Politz, Jeanne Boughton, Alice Wright, Ninette Eastman, Charlene Walk, Dee McCloskey, Jennifer Couvillon, Kristen Koppel, Brandy Whisnant, Adrienne Rynning, Virginia Barba, Sharon Talley, and scores more who lauded Liz.