The tradition of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, can be traced back hundreds of years ago, and is mainly celebrated today as an excuse to eat, drink, dress up and have a good time. Mardi Gras falls on Feb. 28 this year.
Though New Orleans might have the best-known Mardi Gras celebrations, other cities across the United States and even other countries hold their own celebrations.
In Hot Springs, the Hot Springs Jazz Society formed its own krewe (which is defined as a group or organization that puts on a parade or ball during the Mardi Gras season), the Krewe of Jazz, and hosts a Mardi Gras Costume Ball and Contest each year as a fundraiser. This is the fifth year for the ball.
Traditionally, Mardi Gras has a king and a queen who represent the festivities, so the jazz society crowns a Mardi Gras King and Queen each year to preside over the ball.
We just all put our heads together and try to choose royalty that we know will
represent the jazz society well — people who show an interest in the jazz society itself are always an asset — along with people who are active in the community, who can help us build the entire Mardi Gras concept,” said Sharon Turrentine, 2014 Queen of the Jazz Society and former Mardi Gras Queen of the Monroe, La., Mardi Gras. “The king and queen do preside over the official ball, and we get to wear a crown and people bow
down to us!”
The 2017 Hot Springs Jazz Society Mardi Gras King and Queen are Charlie and Rose Marie Canterberry.
The official Mardi Gras colors are purple, green and gold. Ever wonder how the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers got their school colors, purple and gold? Legend has it that in 1893 several players wanted to dress up their boring grey uniforms a little and headed into the city of Baton Rouge to purchase some ribbon and fabric. With Mardi Gras being only a couple of months away, the stores had begun to fill their shelves with purple, green and gold. The players decorated their uniforms with purple and gold and the new colors were a hit with the crowd, so they kept them.
For Mardi Gras parades, it’s almost expected that the parade-goers dress up in a costume, or at least a mask and something colorful and sparkly. The customs surrounding Mardi Gras masks date back hundreds of years and are said to have been worn to conceal one’s identity and allow the individual to behave in ways he or she normally would not. Modern day masks range from simple eye coverings to extravagant full-face masks, usually adorned with feathers, jewels and intricate designs.
Turrentine said the Mardi Gras parade in Monroe has grown to be the largest crowd-going event that the city has, drawing in 350,000-400,000 people to town on the weekend of Mardi Gras, and that the society hopes to one day be able to start a Mardi Gras parade in Hot Springs.
“If and when the jazz society can ever get to that point, the Mardi Gras parade will be just another really, really good tourist attraction for the town,” she added.
The fifth annual Hot Springs Jazz Society Mardi Gras Costume Ball & Contest is set to take place from 6-11:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at The Hotel Hot Springs & Spa, 305 Malvern Ave.
“During the ball presentation, people come to the ball and they’re partying and then the royalty is brought in and marches through the room and throws beads and trinkets to people that kill themselves trying to catch them,” Turrentine said. “It is so funny, they’re fighting and climbing over each other for these trinkets, but it’s fun. I’ll tell you one thing, at a Mardi Gras parade, it’s a lot more fun to be in the parade than in the crowd.”
The band, The Spa City Stompers, will begin playing at 6:30 p.m. and Turrentine will be a guest singer. The main dance band of the night is Dizzy 7. The event will be emceed by Jacqueline Beaumont.
A ring will be raffled off on the night of the event and a silent auction and costume contest with $1,000 in cash prizes will be held, along with prizes for finding the hidden “King’s cake babies.” Cajun food and adult drinks will be available for purchase throughout the night.
Tickets are $60 or $600 for a table of 10 with preferred seating.
Proceeds will benefit the Hot Springs Jazz Society’s educational programs.
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