Friends of Jazz Mardi Gras 2023: The good times rolled to keep music in the schools

About 100 guests had plenty to celebrate at this year’s Mardi Gras Ball, held on March 19 at the Velvet Rose in Orange. They literally had a ball. After all, it was the biggest fundraiser held by Friends of Jazz this year. And it was all for a good cause: keeping music in the schools.

And boy, did they celebrate! Plenty of dancing, parading, eating, drinking, bidding on auction items, and just plain merriment!

At 5 pm, doors opened for cocktail hour, and guests were greeted by the CSUF Titan Ramblers (Bill Cunliffe, director). They were served delicious hors-d’oeuvres and given a drink ticket, a mask, and a ticket for a free photo while the band entertained. They also got their first look at the array of silent auction items beautifully displayed in numerous baskets, and they bought tickets for a 50/50 drawing and for the ever-popular wine wheel (which included a chance for dinner at the Summit House).

Dressed in their finest clothes, masks, and costumes, guests joyfully joined in the Krewe parade. FOJ’s Dragon and Fullerton College’s Lemon Street Stompers led the way with Director Bruce Babad on the sax. Throughout the venue, one could see dancing and waving beautifully decorated parasols while the krewe played “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

In the ballroom, the CSU Fullerton Jazz Orchestra, directed by Bill Cunliffe, provided some great entertainment for listening, and there was plenty of dancing. Of course, what ball would not be complete without the introduction of the 2022 king and queen? Nick and Dottie Batinich, whose reign began at the 2020 Mardi Gras Ball. Then FOJ President Colleen introduced the new royal couple for 2023: Bob and Doris Muschek.

While at dinner, guests were treated to the jazz vocal group Fullerton College’s own J-Train. Later on, their director, Jamie Shew, sang several crowd-pleasing jazz standards with the CSU Fullerton Jazz Orchestra, along with local crooner Gavin Braun and surprise vocalist Mark Miller. And there were plenty of dancers who enjoyed the music.

After collecting their auction items, guests were given a commemorative bag with a ballpoint pen and a small notebook to take home.

Many thanks to the National Charity League gals, their moms, and FOJ member Nancy Nehring for helping make the event a success. Kudos to Larry Arthur, Mardi Gras Ball Director; Colleen Wadsworth, Assistant Director; Pam Appleman, Auction Chair; Don Dyer and Colleen Wadsworth, emcees; and to the Mardi Gras Committee for tirelessly putting it all together. And thanks to our members and guests for helping to keep music in the schools by supporting this wonderful event.

Friends of Jazz, now in its 24th year, is supported by the Johnny Carson Foundation.