Laurel Street Palooza promises ‘great night of fun’

It’s good to be the king, as Jim Brandt will find out as he reigns as King Palooza at the 2014 Laurel Street Palooza. He’ll get to wear the crown and whatever else goes with the king outfit, and everyone will pay homage to him.

“I’m going to issue several proclamations that day,” Brandt says. “I only have a day, so I’ll have to get in as many proclamations as I can.”

This year’s Laurel Street Palooza, the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s annual street party fundraiser, is set for Friday, Jan. 10. Barricades will block Laurel Street traffic between the Arts Council and the Chase Bank building.

“And everyone is invited to this all-inclusive event for a great night of fun,” says Kathy Scherer, the Arts Council’s deputy director. “We’ll have food, music and a silent auction, and this year’s theme will be the circus.”

“We’ll also have great weather,” Brandt said. “I looked up Jan. 10 in the Farmer’s Almanac, and it said we’re to have good weather on that day.”

Is that a proclamation? It kind of sounded like one.

Brandt will be reigning with Queen Palooza Mary Ann Sternberg, who hasn’t promised any proclamations. But it’s also good to be the queen.

“It’s an honor,” Sternberg said. “I’m both honored and excited. I never expected this.”

Neither did Brandt. He and Sternberg were invited to what they thought would be a luncheon where Arts Council personnel would discuss the compaing year. Brandt even brought along a list of ideas he wanted to add to the discussion.

But upon their arrivals, Sternberg and Brandt learned they were next in line for the thrones.

“It was a big surprise,” Brandt said. “I was ready to give them some ideas. I never expected anything like this.”

The Arts Council annually chooses community members who are involved in local arts for its royalty.

Brandt has been a longtime advocate of and volunteer for the Arts Council, having served on both the council’s board of directors and its Community Fund for the Arts cabinet.

He’s also a consistent supporter of WRKF public radio, the Manship Theatre and other local arts organizations.

Brandt also served as president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana from 1999 to 2010.

He now serves on the board of directors for the Capital Area Transit System, the Foundation for East Baton Rouge School System, the Center for Planning Excellence and the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families.

As for Sternberg, she was a founding board member of the Arts Council in 1973 and also piloted its public relations programming, which included serving as head of public relations for the first three Arts Festivals.

Sternberg coined the festival’s name change to FestForAll in the mid 1970s.

Sternberg is a longtime member of the Arts Council’s advisory board and since 2007 has been a member of the River City Jazz Coalition, which cofounded the River City Jazz Masters series with Derek Gordon.

She now serves on the board for WRKF and is the chair for the Ernest Gaines Literary Award, sponsored by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

Sternberg is a freelance writer and nonfiction author.

King and Queen Palooza will be presented at the circus.

“We’ll have circus decor, and we’re encouraging everyone to dress in the theme,” Scherer says. “No one has to, just anyone who wants to. It’ll be fun.”

Meanwhile, live music will be provided by the Michael Foster Project, Ben Bell and the Stardust Boys, Artemis and Kirk Holder.

And the silent auction will include a wide variety of items like art pieces donated by Arts Market artists and a four-night stay in Costa Rica.