National broadcast dinner features New Orleans tourism

New Orleans-style cuisine and music stole the attention of thousands of politicians and members of the media Wednesday night in the nation’s capital in the form of the 69th annual Radio and Television Congressional Correspondents’ Dinner.

Though less famous than the glitzy White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, the radio-and-TV event bills itself as the more fun alternative and featured the theme this year of “Laissez les bons temps rouler” — let the good times roll.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., participated as featured speakers at the dinner event with more than 1,500 people in attendance at the National Building Museum.

The reception and dinner featured everything ranging from a second-line parade and Mardi Gras beads to traditional beignets from Café du Monde and a dinner menu created by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

Dardenne said the event was roughly nine months in the making after Fox News photographer John Wallace, who chaired the event this year, reached out to the state as a fan of New Orleans who wanted to do a French Quarter theme.

“We jumped on it,” Dardenne said. “We’ve been very interested in, as long as I’ve been lieutenant governor, in finding unique ways to market the state.”

The brass band and Mardi Gras Indian second-line parade cut through the audience, picking up revelers along the way. Landrieu joined political analyst Donna Brazile and others in dancing with Mardi Gras masks on.

Landrieu jokingly corrected U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., for calling the second line a “conga line.”

But, in a serious moment, she praised the national media for telling the story of the levee failures from Hurricane Katrina and the region’s return.

“We are not just recovering, but rebuilding and reinventing ourselves,” she said.

“We are so glad the country loves New Orleans and has not let our spirit die,” she added.

Dardenne touted Louisiana’s comeback, including 2012 being the state’s best tourism year ever.

As an official cosponsor, the state put in $45,000 toward funding the event, Dardenne said. But the money was from a pool of funds set aside for tourism-promoting events, he said, which came from BP as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

Dardenne credited Wallace, who is a frequent tourist in New Orleans, for the theme idea. “He obviously has a real love for New Orleans,” Dardenne said.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time they’ve done a theme that’s allowed a state to showcase itself,” Dardenne added.

The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board all participated in the event organizing.

Lagasse’s menu included New Orleans barbecue shrimp, fried oysters, Creole shrimp with trout remoulade, and a main course of boudin-stuffed quail with mustard jus.

Entertainment included Mardi Gras Indians and jazz pianist John Royen.