I love a holiday, any holiday! I celebrate them all. But I especially love this time of the year that begins with Southern Decadence and ends with Christmas. Who am I kidding, I celebrate year-round, any reason for a party.
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind from my Thanksgiving road trip with Mama Dawn to the crazy party scene in December, and it’s only the first week. With Thanksgiving falling so late this year, the season has been compacted so I literally have had two to three events a night. And Santa thought he was busy! But let’s not waste any time and get to all the fun.
I started my Thanksgiving week off by jumping into the holiday spirit when I attended the preview for Celebration in the Oaks. It was a wonderful way to spend an evening albeit warm. Guests got to enjoy the beautiful display in stages.
We began in Storyland which I had not been to in years. It’s still as magical as I remember it and they gave us a look at their new Jack-in-the-Beanstalk two-story tall slide they’ll be opening up next year. I have to say Jack made quite an impression.
Next we were able to walk around the Botanical Garden to see all the beautiful holiday light displays. They have a gorgeous poinsettia tree in the Conservatory of Two Sisters and several areas for food and drink. The New Orleans 12 Days of Christmas display is hysterical.
Then we went to the area with all the rides and enjoyed roasting marshmallows by the fire pit. They’re pulling out all the stops this holiday season. For the finale, we were able to ride the train around the park and see all the displays from the dinosaur area (so cool) to the brightly colored stars. Celebration in the Oaks is definitely a holiday tradition that should be on everyone’s TO DO list. To find out more, go to https://neworleanscitypark.com/celebration-in-the-oaks.
After returning to NOLA from my Thanksgiving trip with Mom (see separate article), I jumped back into the New Orleans party scene when I attended the Creole Cuisine holiday party at Broussard’s Restaurant in the French Quarter. This wasn’t just any party, this set the bar high for all the other parties this season. Creole Cuisine set up stations with each one of their over 20 restaurants providing a dish. From Flamingo A Go Go to Pier 424 and Bombay Club to Tommy’s, there was so much to choose from. Add to this, free-flowing cocktails and you have a party! They also had Hermann-Grima House open, adjacent to the venue in back, so guests could enjoy its courtyard and tour the historic home.
The following night was the National Association of Catering and Events at Laurenia located in the Pythian Market. The members pulled out all the stops as guests dined on food provided by different restaurants and caterers while enjoying lots of cocktails. They also had a photo booth, awards ceremony, a dance band and live auction. It was a wonderful evening in a great space. Afterwards, everyone moved next door to the Troubadour Hotel for an after-party in their rooftop Monkey Bar which has some nice views of the city.
Thursday was a threevent type of evening.
I began by attending a small gathering to unveil a piece of the AIDS Quilt at the Contemporary Arts Center. It’s a somber reminder of the many lives lost to this terrible illness. A special section of the quilt was put on display with the names of Louisianians who died from the disease.
Next, we went to the stately Van Benthuysen-Elms Mansion located on St. Charles Avenue which was celebrating its 150th anniversary. The Mansion was built for Watson Van Benthuysen II who was born in New York in the early 1830s and moved to New Orleans in the 1840s. He became a prominent local businessman and the President of a Saint Charles streetcar company. Van Benthuysen died in his home in 1901. In 1952, John Elms Sr., owner of the largest coin operated amusement company in the South, purchased the home. Shortly after Mr. Elms’ death in 1968, his family started using the house for private functions; it’s now operated by the 3rd generation of the Elms family.
The venue pulled out all the stops for the night. Guests were greeted at the entrance with costumed carolers. They had other live entertainment throughout the night culminating in a mini-fireworks show. The gardens were simply lovely with the decorations and furniture. I believe I have never seen this venue so nice. It was another memorable holiday party.
My last stop of the evening was Barcadia for their holiday shindig. They decorated the place in gaudy festive Christmas lights that looked pretty amazing. Once again, there was cocktails and food, and the newly renovated private room areas are wonderful. It was quite the busy night enjoying lots of holiday cheer.
On Friday, I attended the New Orleans Mission Gala at the Hyatt Hotel courtesy of one of the evening’s sponsors, The Windsor Court. The event is in its sixth year and celebrated “30 Years, A Journey Through Recovery.” The New Orleans Mission is a Christian Humanitarian Organization dedicated to the rescue, recovery, and re-engagement of people facing homelessness, addiction, human trafficking, or even abuse. Motivated by faith, the organization serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. They had an outstanding silent auction which, during the holiday season, becomes one of the best places to find gifts for people.
On Saturday, I attended one of NOLA’s premier fundraisers, The Red Ribbon Gala formerly known as Art Against AIDS. This year’s event was held at Club XLIV, near the Superdome. It was a festive soiree that had a large crowd with fabulous entertainment, food, cocktails and an incredible silent auction.
The lovely Andrea Halstead, one of the auction chairs, helped make this year’s one of the best silent auctions I’ve seen in a long time. Over 200 items ranged from gift certificates to numerous works of art. I got some amazing items from some artists whom I love to collect, as well as more holiday gifts. Congrats to Andrea and everyone who organized this silent auction, a job well done.
The food vendors gave guests an incredible array of choices. Some of the noteworthy donors were Pigeon Catering, Flamingo A Go Go, Crescent City Brewhouse, Louisiana Pizza Kitchen and Melba’s. Entertainment was provided by Heather and the Monkey King and DJ Kerem with a special performance by Marshall Harris. There was also a holiday spotlight show from the Ladies of the Holidays which included Lana O’ Day, Princesse Stephaney, Dominique DeLorean and Countess C. Alice. It was a magical night and the ideal way to kick off the LGBT holiday season.
I ended my two weeks by going to see a classic Broadway show that’s perfect for the holiday season. JPAS is presenting Annie and it’s simply marvelous. The cast, both young and older, do an outstanding job and the dog that plays Sandy steals the stage. Once again JPAS delivers a knockout classic for their audiences.
Next, I attended the Armeinius holiday gathering at the lovely home of Don Schwenn and Michael Shlenker. The holiday gathering included cocktails, nibbles and a Dirty Santa/White Elephant gift exchange. I love doing this at a party because it is like a holiday version of Hunger Games. Watching dear friends steal presents from each other just exudes the holiday spirit! When someone tried to take my Drag Queen Brunch cookbook form me, I almost cut a bitch! But fortunately, my holiday angel was watching over me and I ended up with one at the end.
I hope everyone enjoys their holiday and remembers to keep the season gay!