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Mardi Gras

Getting' in the mood

Getting' in the mood

February 24, 2003|by Chris Copley

chrisc@herald-mail.com

In the United States, Mardi Gras is nearly synonomous with New Orleans. The late winter celebration in Louisiana's party capital is a holiday for eating, drinking and extreme partying.

Mardi Gras is the French name for a Christian tradition of last-minute feasting on the day before the beginning of Lent - a six-and-a-half-week period of fasting and sacrifice before Easter. The modern traditions of Mardi Gras, however, include extravagant costumes, bead necklaces thrown from parade floats, excessive eating and drinking, even public displays of nudity to celebrate on March 4.

Tri-State residents can find a mellower Mardi Gras mood much closer than Louisiana. Several area groups have adopted Mardi Gras as a theme for their events. Here are a few:

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  • Today - Mardi Gras dance at Sunday Singles Inc.

    The Westminster, Md.-based singles organization is hosting its second annual Mardi Gras costume dance tonight at the Best Western Inn in Westminster at the intersection of Maryland routes 31 and 140. All singles 21 or older are welcome. Tickets are $6; food is included.

    Zydeco dance lessons begin when doors open at 7 p.m. The dance officially begins at 7:30.

    "Zydeco is like swing, but it's Cajun," Sunday Singles president John Van Brunt said. "You don't throw girls in zydeco."

    Last year's Mardi Gras dance was well-received, Van Brunt said, with plenty of beads sent to Westminster direct from New Orleans, where Van Brunt's daughter lives. This year, he said, his daughter sent three times as many beads as last year.

    "We'll have plenty of beads," he said.

    Other New Orleans specialties at the dance will be traditional Louisiana foods, such as jambalaya and raised donuts called beignets.

    Costumes are encouraged - the more outrageous the better, Van Brunt said.

    "The idea is to have fun," he said, just like in New Orleans - with a few exceptions. "We all wear clothes," he said with a chuckle.

    For more information, call Van Brunt at 1-410-635-6720 or e-mail him at john@sundaysingles.org.

  • Mardi Gras Party hosted by Fulton County (Pa.) Chamber of Commerce and Tourism

    The Mardi Gras costume party is an all-out bash at Great Cove Golf Course & Country Club on Saturday, March 8. Social hour begins at 6 p.m.; the meal, featuring Cajun and Creole specialties, is served at 7; dancing begins at 8.

    The cost for the party is $30 per person or $55 per couple. Dinner is Cajun catfish, shrimp Creole, jambalaya, red beans and rice, hush puppies, vegetable and dessert. Drinks include a Mardi Gras punch. Appetizers will be served before dinner.

    RSVP with payment by Monday, March 3. Call 1-717-485-4064.

  • Mardi Gras Celebration of the Family

    The Family Resource Network in Martinsburg, W.Va., is hosting its annual Mardi Gras-themed family play day Sunday, March 9, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Shepherd College Student Center.

    Family Resource Network Executive Director Judy Boykin said the event is designed as an opportunity to bring parents and children together for fun.

    "Each year we try to provide a special event, a safe place where people can come together and play," she said. "It is not an opportunity to drop off your child. The idea is families growing together through play."

    The Mardi Gras event grew out of the America's Promise program launched in 1997 by Colin Powell. That gathering of Powell and former U.S. presidents was intended to emphasize the importance of nurturing young children.

    Boykin said America's Promise lists five fundamental resources children need to flourish. One of those resources is safe places with structured activities during nonschool hours. This led to the annual Mardi Gras play time with a variety of activities bringing together children and their parents or grandparents. This year's activities include crafts, food and entertainment.

    "Magician Michael T. is a regular performer," Boykin said. "Joe Santoro is an Appalachian puppeteer; he puts on a show. We have old-fashioned games."

    The cost is free for children younger than 6 and $10 per person for older children and adults. The ticket pays for all activities, supplies and food. Boykin said limited funds are available to defray costs for large families.

    One of New Orleans' Mardi Gras traditions involves moon pies, chocolate-covered marshmallow confections.

    "Whoever catches the most moon pies gets a stuffed animal," Boykin said. "We're trying to make it kid-friendly. It's a fun place, a safe place. No tobacco. No alcohol. We want the parents to be there with their kid and play."For more information, call 1-304-264-1554.

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