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Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 09:49 pm

Mardi Gras and all

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Catch the Samba Llamas at Norb Andy’s on Sat. Feb. 13.

Slowly but surely the whoop-it-up holiday known around the world as Carnival season has taken hold in Springfield. Just a few years ago some hardy souls around town were determined to make a local annual party of this centuries-old, global celebration leading up to Lent. Now we have a legally official, not-for-profit group known as Springfield Mardi Gras coordinating the fun to make sure the good times really do roll.

The party for Mardi Gras, or to use the English translation of Fat Tuesday, begins on Thurs., Feb. 11, with a get-together at Springfield’s downtown jazz club, Remy’s on Monroe. Official band business starts at Robbie’s on Feb. 12, for a Mardi Gras-themed Uptown Friday Night with none other than New Orleans native and Springfield resident saxophonist Roger Kimball and his band knocking out a few songs inspired by the occasion. Kimball continues his Carnival run with a show from 8 to 11 p.m. on Feb. 13 at Bar None. For you latecomers, his RK Band plays in Chatham on Feb. 20 for a Mardi Gras Gala sponsored by the Chatham Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Carnival celebration has quite a reputation in Brazil and particularly in Rio de Janeiro where Samba schools perform at the Sambadrome in competitions that last for days. In a wonderfully fitting way, the Samba Llamas, Springfield’s only band playing music of such ilk, hosts a night of celebration at Norb Andy’s on Saturday. They sure have a song list fit for a Sambathon, a Sambapalooza or any Samba situation that arises.

On the Monday before Mardi Gras, known in Carnival party time lingo as Lundi Gras, New Orleans trumpeter Frank Parker hosts a merry-making time during his weekly Jambalaya Jam at the Brewhaus starting around 5:30. The evening finishes with a flourish at the Alamo for an Illinois Central Blues Club-sponsored “Gras” Blue Monday as an all-star version of the Sofa Kings entertains with David Lumsden, Eric Tinsley, Dion Dross, Blake Everist, Andon Davis and Wayne Carter among those manning the instruments.

Can you believe we haven’t even gotten to Fat Tuesday yet? On the official day of Mardi Gras, a family-friendly sidewalk parade begins at 5:30 with participants of all ages meeting beforehand at the Trout Lily Café for some face painting and other happy stuff. At 6:30 the crew takes a walk around downtown led by Frank Parker’s New Orleans Marching Band. Feel free to wear a costume and be on the lookout for those famed beads of Mardi Gras events. Starting from Robbie’s at 7:30 Frank then leads the adult version of the walk as a Pub Crawl in and out of several downtown drinking establishments reveling in the revelry of what many consider the finer and most fun part of Carnival. The wandering Second Line ends at Norb Andy’s, where the Stone Cold Blues Band continues the fun from 9 p.m. to midnight.

For those of you who like to celebrate without much movement, head to J.W.’s Lounge on Fat Tuesday for a party with authentic New Orleans chow and music. If you are a traveler, remember St. Louis’ Soulard district annually hosts one of the best and largest Mardi Gras happenings outside of New Orleans

That should take care of the Carnival for this season. Happy Mardi Gras-ing.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com