The American Red Cross celebrated its annual Oscar Experience New Orleans on Sunday, February 24, at the Theatres at Canal Place with more than 400 community leaders and supporters in attendance for a night of entertainment, exquisite food and elegant décor. In its tenth year, Oscar Experience New Orleans is the only Academy-sanctioned Oscar party in the New Orleans area, and major fundraising gala for the Red Cross in Louisiana.
“Our region has hosted this event for ten years now, and we were blown away by the growth we saw this year,” said Kay W. Wilkins, CEO of the South Louisiana Region Red Cross. “It was great to see the commitment of our community members in supporting the mission of the Red Cross.”
This year’s event raised almost $110,000 in support of local disaster response programs and other life-saving services offered by the American Red Cross Southeast Louisiana Chapter. Oscar Experience New Orleans is presented in partnership with the Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Guests got a taste of the glitz and glitter of the Academy Awards and this year celebrated the many “Hollywood South” businesses that support the Red Cross. Upon arrival guests were in the spotlight as they walked the red carpet among fans and paparazzi to enter the K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen Patron Party.
Music by the Quarter Rat Pack and Louisiana fiddler Amanda Shaw, along with several local celebrities attended, including Christ Ashworth a Louisiana transplant and star of HBO’s “The Wire,” highlighted the patron party.
Ashworth joined the event to view the Oscars and to support a good cause. “The Red Cross does so much for so many and I like to lend my time to causes like this,” Ashworth said. “I am amazed by all of the services the Red Cross provides including services to armed forces, disaster relief and CPR instruction… These are all things I never would have guessed.”
Colby Boothman, of “The Last Exorcism: Part II” and “Beautiful Creatures,” commented on the role the Red Cross plays through its unmatched use of technology. Boothman said, “I like to help out in any way I can with organizations that are important like the Red Cross.”
Donna Duplantier, a New Orleans native and actress in the upcoming “Dallas Buyers Club,” knows the Red Cross in a manner all too familiar. “During Katrina, I was in Los Angeles and approached the Red Cross and was given assistance,” Duplantier recalled. “It was nice to know they were there even though I was so far away from home.”
Other celebrities in attendance included film director and composer Elvin Ross, Dana Gourrier, “Django Unchained,” Jonshel Alexander and Lowell Landis, “Beasts of Southern Wild.”
Guests followed a second line by Pocket Aces Brass Band to the theaters for the Oscar telecast. As guests settled into their seats, they were treated to a special thank you message from the stars of “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Filmed in Terrebonne Parish, starring local actors, the film’s nominations in four categories were a source of pride for many, especially lead sponsor Jones Walker.
During commercial breaks, attendees perused an array of tantalizing silent auction items. The night was extra special for two lucky raffle winners who won a $1,000 gift certificate from Lee Michael’s Fine Jewelry and a two-night stay in the Hyatt Regency New Orleans Presidential Suite, respectively.
As the cast of “Argo” filed onstage to accept their “Best Picture” win, Oscar Experience New Orleans guests ended the night with dancing and music by Pocket Aces Brass Band.
“We couldn’t have done this without the enduring support of partners, donors, community members and volunteers,” Wilkins said. “The funds will go to support disaster response in the coming year.”
Leading partners who made possible the Oscar Experience New Orleans are Iberiabank, Triton Stone Group, The Theatres at Canal Place, WGNO-TV ABC, The Advocate, Hollywood Trucks, Hyatt Regency New Orleans and Jones Walker.