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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008 01:10 pm

Mardi Gras inspiration

The capital city hosts one of the earliest parties of the season

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Yeah, yeah, yeah — I’ve heard it all before and just heard it again the other night: “Boring ol’ Springfield.” “Nothing to do.” “Man, I wished I lived in a real town.” On and on droned the determined downers. You know I’ll be the first (but not the last) to say that this town is not the happening place it could be or that other places feel more exciting than this old morgue, er, burg — but come on, if it’s that bad it’s time to do something about it.
That’s exactly what some industrious folks did when there was no Mardi Gras celebration around here: They got together and made one. Springfield Mardi Gras is a not-for-profit corporation with the sole purpose of organizing annual Mardi Gras events in our highly underentertained city. Depending on the size of your donation, you can distinguish yourself as an individual, a household, a nonprofit organization, or a business. Or you can donate your way to a designation of Patron, Sponsor, Crown Benefactor, or even an Other (which, I’m assuming, gives you naming rights to yourself) — but every contribution gets you a ticket to the costume ball. From its beginnings in 2003, little more than a small parade and big hopes, the party has grown bigger and better, more organized and more fun. In 2007 the group produced several events, including a Sunday-morning brunch with New Orleans-style food and music, a “Lundi Gras” costume ball, and family-oriented activities in the early evening and a pub crawl and parade for late-night revelers on Fat Tuesday.
The 2008 SMG calendar is similar, but with an added first party 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13, at the Brewhaus (617 E. Washington St., 217-525-6399). The shindig will feature Cajun/New Orleans food and music by the Jambalaya Jam Band with Frank Parker. Tickets cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Costumes are suggested but not required, but beads are a certainty. Check with Mardi Gras instigator Kate Hawkes at the Trout Lily Café (218 S. Sixth St., 217-391-0101) for tickets and information. I find these dates a bit early for Mardi Gras celebrations, but, according to the common Western Christian computation for the date of Easter, the holy holiday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, putting the date for 2008 at March 23. Complicated as this all seems, it was decided in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea, an important meeting of early Christians called by Emperor Constantine I of the mighty Roman Empire. Now, why do we care about dating Easter? Because Mardi Gras is the big hedonistic party culminating in Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which is observed by Christians as 40 days (not counting Sundays) of fasting and prayer before Easter. So thanks to those thoughtful bishops in 325 A.D., in unknowing cahoots with the enterprising and organizing members of SMG, the capital city gets the honor of hosting one of the very first parties of the Mardi Gras season this Sunday. I just love Christian math!
See how easy it is to make something happen if you just try? The whole universe may get behind you. Borrowing the slogan of the SMG bunch, we’re just “letting the good times roll in Lincoln Land.”

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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