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Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007 02:52 pm

Mardi Gras makes its mark

Thanks to local bon vivants, you don’t have to party in St. Louis

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Untitled Document The valiant struggle to transform Springfield into an appealing place continues with a glorious 2007 celebration of Mardi Gras. The famed party has tickled me ever since I discovered that the reason for going crazy with gluttony and drunken revelry was the upcoming forced fast of Lent. How quaint. By now, I assume, most revelers have no idea of or care to know the reason for the season. So be it. Let’s party, whatever the excuse. For years the only regional Mardi Gras celebration worth attending has been the fabulous get-together in St. Louis. The obvious French connection enables the Soulard district, just south of downtown, to claim one of the largest Mardi Gras turnouts outside of New Orleans, which is of course the best in the United States, if not the world. But now we have an alternative, and, as those in the know know, it only takes a few people to start a change, as long as the masses willingly follow. In this case, members of the Springfield Mardi Gras Committee (Kate Hawkes of the Trout Lily Café, local trumpeter and New Orleans regular Frank Parker, and jazz drummer John Sluzalis, along with Pasfield House owner Tony Leone) concocted a delicious recipe for a three-day celebration of the pre-Lenten bash. The 2007 festival, which was first attempted in 2004, is much improved from its predecessor. Plans include a Sunday New Orleans Jazz Brunch at the Pasfield House; a Monday (that’s lundi for you purists) costume ball, with dinner and dancing, at the Inn at 835; and two Fat Tuesday parades. The Sunday and Monday events require tickets and may very well have sold out by the time you read this — but who cares (obviously I didn’t get mine in time)? The real party is on Fat Tuesday anyway.
 The first parade, geared toward families (leave the bottle of booze behind, honey), begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Trout Lily Café, with Frankie and Johnny (Parker and Sluzalis) leading a band and the crowd on a celebratory walk through downtown Springfield. The Trout Lily offers free face-painting (children only, bub) for the hour and a half before parade liftoff. Finally we’ve reached the point we’ve all been waiting for: the tavern-hopping portion of our show. At 7:30, again meeting at the Trout Lily, Springfield’s Mardi Gras central command headquarters, the Second Line Downtown Pub Crawl begins a march in and out of downtown drinking establishments, with beads, costumes, and all that comes with a Mardi Gras parade. The marchers may develop a wonderful weave in their walk as they return, or, perhaps driven by a delightful disintegration, the line will consume itself in wild abandon and unbridled revelry somewhere between the Brewhaus and Floyd’s Thirst Parlor. Whatever the result, isn’t it great to see something like this in Springfield? We send a mighty and well-deserved thanks to all who helped organize the event and deliver a gracious thank-you to all who participate in the party. Having fun never felt so good. Looking forward to Lent yet?

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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