When the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, Calif., near San Diego, scheduled three consecutive weekends of New Orleans music, it was long before anyone had ever imagined a Hurricane Katrina or the havoc it would wreak on the Gulf Coast.
But when Sandy Sanders, a 1976 Tulane Law School graduate and music buff living in the area, saw the Tavern lineup of Marcia Ball, the Radiators and Aaron Neville on three consecutive Friday nights in September, he saw an opportunity. "I telephoned the manager of the Belly Up and presented him with the idea of turning the shows into benefit concerts for the American Red Cross," Sanders says. "They were already considering the possibility of using the Aaron Neville show as a benefit but after a couple of days they agreed to present all three shows as benefit shows."
The tavern donated all the net proceeds from ticket sales and a portion of the food sale receipts for the three nights. Each week, Sanders and San Diego Tulane Club president Mary Lynn Hyde sent out e-mails to Tulane and LSU alumni throughout Southern California. They also prepared collection buckets to put inside the tavern for donations.
The San Diego alumni didn't want to stop there, however--they wanted to help their alma mater with its rebuilding efforts. Enter 1974 Newcomb alumna Carol Showley and her collection of Mardi Gras beads. The group decided to pool their beads and sell them at the three concerts, using those proceeds to benefit the Tulane Rebuilding Fund.
The response has been excellent, both to the Red Cross fundraiser and to the Mardi Gras bead sales--Hyde estimates that the group raised about $1,000 for the Tulane rebuilding fund through the bead sales, and could have sold more if they'd had access to more beads.
And the concerts have done even more for the larger relief effort. "The shows have been packed," Sanders says. "We have seen a lot of Tulane, Loyola and LSU people there. A lot of the credit, of course, should go to the Belly Up Tavern--we should give them a big 'Thank You.'"