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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Greatest Show on Earth

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The pageantry of the Cotillion returns

When spring arrives each year in the Ark-La-Tex, nature’s blossoms come out in all their profusion. So, too, do the young men and women who make up the Cotillion Club Court. The Cotillion Club aims to bring the metropolitan area’s population together to stimulate interest in the greater Shreveport area while boosting the local economy.

The first festival was held in May 1949. The Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, the Shreveport Symphony and local civic clubs shared resources and talent to put on the festival and Cotillion.

Friday, April 8, in the historic Municipal Auditorium, the Cotillion will return after a two-year Covid-enforced hiatus. This year’s court will consist of the King, Queen, two Princes and two Princesses, six Duchesses, 16 Ladies of the Court, 22 Gentlemen of the Court, four Heralds and four Pages to the King and Queen.

Cotillion Club President Michael John Hoogland and his wife, Valerie, announced the event at a party at their home on Jan. 28. On April 8, he will proclaim the reign of Rex LXXIII, King of Cotillion and his Royal Court.

Hoogland is the president and owner of Hoogland’s Landscape Co. He is a past board member of St. Joseph School in Shreveport, two-term past president and ball chairman of the Plantation Club and Ball, member of the Ark-La-Tex Ambassador’s Club, and past board member of the Shreveport Country Club, among other civic and social positions.

His wife, Valerie Adger Hoogland, was the 1983 Cotillion Court’s Duchess of Caddo.

The two-year pause in the 73-year span of the event created some new challenges for the club, according to the Cotillion Chair, Eloise Graff. For the past 20 or 30 years, she said, the Cotillion worked with Maloney Productions of New Orleans to create the decorations for the event. Maloney was a casualty of Covid and has gone out of business.

“We had to look for other alternatives for our stage design,” Graff said. “We decided to go the direction of doing a digital backdrop. Usually, it’s like a painted backdrop. This year it’s going to be very interactive. It will be displayed on the stage, and then we’ll also have display on the floor as the participants are getting presented.”

This year’s court will be the largest ever, according to Graff, since they are combining participants from the missed events. “Usually, it’s the juniors that get presented; this year we have juniors and seniors in college since we missed last year. So, we have the biggest court ever. We normally have 48, and we have 58 people on the court this year.”

According to Cotillion Publicity Chair Stephanie Pringle, those extra courtiers will boost this year’s attendance. “The court’s going to be bigger, the party’s going to be bigger. We’re expecting 1,500 people.”

Pringle said Graff has put together an event that will be bigger and better than ever, especially with the digital backdrop. “You know when you go to a concert and they have those big screens in the background and there’s different videos and different lighting; we’re going to have a digital backdrop instead of just one big backdrop.”

Instead of the customarily painted decoration, the digital backdrop is expected to add some high-tech excitement to the evening. As Pringle said, “We had to make some lemonade out of the lemons.”

This year’s theme is “The Greatest Show” and harkens back to Graff’s former career after college. “I graduated from LSU, moved to Atlanta and got a job with the parent company of Ringling Brothers and Disney on Ice. I was a promoter for the circus. So, I traveled with the circus for seven years. I’ve always had a love for the circus.

“Circus performers are going to be there doing a performance prior to kicking off the presentation, and then it will be very interactive throughout the night.”

To attend, you must be a Cotillion member, Graff explained. “Anyone is able to become a member of Cotillion. They pay a membership fee and then pay for a ticket. We have orchestra level seating, and we have balcony seating in different price ranges.”

Dress for the event is formal-length gown for ladies and black tie for gentlemen.

“The presentation is from 8:30 to about 10 p.m.,” Graff noted. “Afterwards, the party continues under the big top.

“We’re going to have food catered by Upper Crust Catering. We have a band from Dallas called Grooveline with dancing until 1 o’clock in the morning.”

She said all the music for the evening would be live and based on the movie, “The Greatest Showman,” with Chad Causey leading the orchestra. The film is loosely based on the story and life of legendary showman P.T. Barnum.

To become a member, contact cotillionmembership1@gmail.com.

ON STANDS NOW!

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