After years of unpredictable weather, the sun shone brightly on Mardi Gras, Feb. 28. New Orleanians and tourists costumed, consumed and cavorted Uptown, French Quarter or Metairie in a tradition that knows no defining -- there is a Mardi Gras for everyone.
The Mistick Krewe of Comus, founded in 1857 and Rex organization, founded in 1872, have separate balls, but it is the Meeting of the Courts when the two meet to mark the end of Carnival season and to celebrate.
Guests to the Rex organization's 146th ball entered the Sheraton Hotel's Grand Ballroom, which had been transformed into an elegant scene by a gold and white draped backdrop highlighting Rex and queen's throne -- centered by a royal R -- and the benches aligned on either side for the maids of honor and dukes of the realm. Large floral arrangements of white cherry blossom, yellow forsythia, Casablanca lilies and hydrangea were anchored in place and flowerbeds of white daisies banked by fern were at the edge of the stage.
After emcee Mark Romig asked guests to take their seats, the reception began with the entrance of the Marine Corps Band New Orleans under the direction of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Smith. The band played a selection of music, including the National Anthem, and songs -- "The Purple Carnival" and "America the Beautiful" -- inspired by the color purple, one of the Rex organization's (and Mardi Gras) official colors (the others are green and gold).
After a short pause, the Rex Captain sounded a whistle, and the Rex organization's orchestra began a drum roll. A group of six Rex Lieutenants costumed in green, gold, and purple entered the ballroom, proceeded to the center of the ballroom floor and split three to each side of the stage. Two costumed trumpeters entered the ballroom, blowing their horns to announce the entrance of the King and Queen of Carnival.
To the music of the Rex anthem, "If Ever I Cease To Love," Rex 2017, Dr. Stephen Wilson Hales, escorted by the Rex Captain; and the Queen of Carnival, Miss Anna Eugenie Huger, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Middleton Huger, escorted by the Rex President, entered for the grand march. Their pages Frank Polk McIlhenny Dinkins and Thomas Westervelt Werner followed. After Rex and his Queen were on their throne, the maids of honor escorted by dukes of the realm entered, each followed by former Kings of Carnival and Rex officials, to pay homage to Rex and the Queen of Carnival and join them on the dais.
The 2017 maids and dukes were Miss Charlotte Villars Delery, escorted by Mr. Matthieu Poche Robert; Miss Reagan Nicole Hairston, escorted by Mr. Bristol Favrot Bell; Miss Katherine Stafford Winsberg, escorted by Mr. William John Kallenborn; Miss Margaret Elisabeth Hoefer, escorted by Mr. William Kirchhoff Kelleher; Miss Mary Nolan Brown, escorted by Mr. Clark Mayo Barousse Jr.; Miss Elizabeth Fenner French, escorted by Mr. Wilson Saunders Sharp; Miss Caroline Emily Lane, escorted by Mr. Richard Joseph Brennan III; and Miss Marcia Madeline Conwill, escorted by Mr. Charles Waterhouse Goodyear III (his sister, Adelaide Dabezies Goodyear, was the 2016 Queen of Carnival). Earlier in the season, Miss Delery reigned as Queen of Nereus, Miss Brown as Queen of Elves of Oberon, and Miss Lane as Queen of Mithras.
After the royal court was seated, in keeping with its long-standing tradition of ties with the United States military, the Rex organization extended its greetings to and decorate Lt. Gen. Rex C. McMillian, Commander, Marine Forces Reserve and Commander, Marine Forces North.
Following that presentation, the 2017 Rex debutantes Colette Elysse Crouere, Caroline Chapman Hewitt, Ellen Lane Horn and Rachel Elizabeth Schulingkamp approached the throne and were greeted by the King and Queen of Carnival and presented a special decoration.
The 50-year anniversary queen, Suzanne Charest Dupuy Phelps, was also presented to their Majesties, who in turn had their pages present a beautiful bouquet of white roses in tribute.
It was then time for guests to greet Rex, the queen and their court, followed by dancing.
At 9:40 p.m., the Captain of the Mistick Krewe of Comus and his Lieutenants entered the ballroom and were greeted by the Rex Captain, President and the two Rex pages. Comus' representatives were then escorted to the throne to be presented to Rex and his Queen, as well as a personalized, scroll invitation for Rex, his Queen, and their court to join the Comus ball.
Shortly thereafter, to the music of "If Ever I Cease to Love," Rex, his Queen and their court left the Rex reception, walking over a red carpet which made a pathway over Canal Street, leading to the Comus ball at the Marriott Hotel.
The hotel's Grand Ballroom also had a regal backdrop highlighted by a myriad of twinkling lights.
When Rex 2017, Dr. Stephen Hales, and Queen of Carnival Anna Eugenie Huger arrived at the Comus ball, the orchestra played Rex's theme song, "If Ever I Cease to Love." After greeting each other, Comus escorted the Queen of Carnival and Rex escorted Queen of Comus, and with their entourage circled the ballroom floor in the double grand march. Their majesties then took their places on the double throne bench.
Miss Avery Scott Rowan, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Forney Rowan, Jr., reigned as queen over the Comus festivities. Miss Rowan is the fifth generation to reign on Mardi Gras: mother, as Virginia Scott Freeman, was queen of Comus in 1990; aunt Laura Louise Freeman was Queen of Carnival in 1984; grandfather, Louis McDaniel Freeman, Rex, 1999; great grandfather Richard West Freeman, Rex, 1959; and great great grandfather A.B. Freeman, Rex 1932.
Maids of honor to her majesty were Misses Mary Dalton Acomb (who reigned the night before as queen of Proteus), Emily Smith Adams, Catherine Lapeyre Barry (queen of Twelfth Night Revelers, the ball that kicks off Carnival), Caroline Walmsley Favrot, Ninette Therese deBalathier Hickey, Eleanor Scullin Janvier, Caroline Bennett Johnson, Cynthia Callaghan Nelson, Elizabeth Flower Redd, and Virginia Parker Stewart - the last three maids reigned earlier in the season as queens of Osiris, The Atlanteans and Knights of Momus.
Pages to Comus were James McDowell Brady Jr., and Coalter Barroll McCall; pages to her majesty were John Mark Church IV and Charles Frederick Seemann IV.
The queens wore elaborate gowns by Suzanne Perron St. Paul -- as tradition dictates, the Rex queen's is gold, the Comus queen's is silver. Queen Anna wore a trumpet-shaped gown embellished with bugle beads, Swarovski crystals, and seed beads that artfully created a pattern of foliage that trailed over beaded French Solstiss lace. Layers of metallic tulle added radiance and volume. The Rex organization's ornate jewelry, crown, scepter, Medici collar and mantle of the organization added a sparkling finish.
For Queen Avery, St. Paul designed a trumpet shaped gown of silver silk lame and elaborate appliques, with a silhouette featuring a sweetheart neckline, sculpted bodice, and a sweeping hem adorned with scalloped beading. Lily of the Valley lace was adorned with delicate pearls, crystals, and seed beads that framed multiple custom plume appliques, which were fashioned from Swarovaski crystals, bugles, and pailettes. The ensemble was completed with the organization's traditional Medici collar, mantle, crown and scepter, and royal jewels.
After the grand march, dancing ensued, and at the conclusion, the rulers were escorted out for the queen's supper across the street at the Sheraton Hotel. The courts and invited guests also made their way back to the Sheraton Hotel for the queen's supper and, quite possibly, points beyond.
To reach Sue Strachan, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 504.450.5904. Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @suestrachan504, with the hashtag #nolasocialscene. Visit her on Facebook. And, come back to NOLA.com/society for more New Orleans area event and party news and photos.