When Mary and Robert Lupo started planning their daughter Francesca’s debutante party, they wanted it to be a night that she and her friends would never forget. They definitely accomplished that. A theme was in order, and Mary wanted it based on Il Palio, a horse race in Siena, Italy, that the Lupo family has been involved in since the 17th century. Each family or contrade (district) has a crest and a scarf, of course, Robert ordered these for everyone who came to the party. As guests arrived, they received a scarf representing a family in the race. The Lupo crest was featured on the invitation designed by Betty Hunley and was a focal point at the party.

Once Francesca approved of the concept, Blaine Kern Jr. of Mardi Gras Productions entered the scene, and the event took shape. He produced all of the colorful decorations, flowers, family crests, a backdrop of the horse race and a screen that showed guests entering the party “à la the red carpet.” Robert is the President of the City Park Improvement Association at City Park and wanted the party at Popp’s Fountain and the new Arbor Room, which reminded everyone of Siena, Italy. Horses provided by Equest Farms and Leslie Kramer lined the entrance, with riders wearing the scarves of rival families. Kern lit the impressive entrance and columns surrounding the fountain, and added medieval-style tents. Tammy Kern’s Party Dolls provided mimes and added tarot card readers, a flame juggler and caricature artists.

Inside the Arbor Room, City Park provided stations of food with an Italian theme – even flaming bananas Foster and beignets. Joe Simon’s trio played first and then the party continued with the band MoJeaux, who had the guests and honoree Francesca singing and dancing on stage. What a night!