The magical mysteries of New Orleans – also known as the Crescent City – abound, but there is nothing mysterious about the appeal of one famed resident, as a recent piece on BitterSoutherner.com shows.
The wide smile and indefatigable spirit of Toni Donaghey is on display every year during every single one of the countless festivals that take place on the streets of New Orleans, from a small-time school festival to Jazzfest and Mardi Gras. As the article explains, Toni is the special events supervisor for Crescent City Coca-Cola, a subsidiary of Birmingham’s Coca-Cola UNITED Co. That means hours upon hours running up and down the streets, supervising trucks and dollies full of Coke products to feed the teeming masses that invade the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, St. Charles Avenue, and other landmark boulevards.
She leads her team, greets everyone she passes, and keeps everything smoothly on schedule – all while wearing her trademark smile. And the residents of New Orleans who know her love her for it.
Tad Bartlett, who penned the piece, does a wonderful job of explaining how the “Coca-Cola Lady of New Orleans” is the living, breathing face of the Coca-Cola world in one of the most vibrant cultural capitals of our nation.
“No matter the stress or difficulty of the work, the constant movement, the counting of cases and interactions with vendors, Toni beams an incessant smile warm enough to melt snow or boil crawfish,” writes Bartlett as he details Toni’s experiences putting ice-cold Coca-Cola beverages on every street corner across two parishes.
The piece also provides a behind-the-scenes look at how coordinators like Toni lead an expansive team of drivers, loaders, volunteers, and vendors to deliver beverages exactly where they’re needed, when they’re needed, for any size event. It’s not easy – crews are up hours before people start arriving to each event – but it’s rewarding work because people like Toni get to be right in the thick of culture swirling around them.
Toni even recounts a special moment during one event: the Jazzfest held in 2006, right after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. “‘I remember, before the gates opened on the first day, just me and the guys and the other Jazzfest workers, and we heard singing over the Fairgrounds. It was Paul Simon, singing ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ joined by Irma Thomas. We were just sobbing,’” she recounts, adding that another, similar experience with Bruce Springsteen the following week “‘was just so, so special – just to be able to say, hey, we did this.’”
The next time you’re in New Orleans for an event and you see an ice-cold Coca-Cola waiting for you, enjoy your refreshing beverage – and say thanks to Toni when you see her.