The name is French, the origins Roman, the slogan Cajun and the color scheme Russian. What else would you expect from a wild and crazy event like Mardi Gras?
New Orleans and Mardi Gras may seem to be synonymous, but if you feel the urge to celebrate the season, the Show-Me State is a great place to laissez les bons temps rouler (“let the good times roll”)!
Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday,” which is February 28 this year, but the festival itself can extend from Twelfth Night to Ash Wednesday (about a two month span) – depending on the location.
Let’s start with the city of St. Louis – which hosts the largest Mardi Gras celebration in the country (that’s not held in a city named New Orleans). Events are scheduled throughout the month of February in Soulard, culminating in the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball on February 24 and the Bud Light Grand Parade, on February 25. Each year, more than 17 million beads are thrown during the parade.
In Lake of the Ozarks, you can do your partying a little early at the Mardi Gras Pub Crawl on February 18. This one is for the 21 and older crowd only. The $10 event wrist band gets you entry to all the locations, plus access to Pub Crawl Party Buses. Don’t forget to don your traditional Mardi Gras mask for the biggest annual party at the Lake.
If your tastes run to a more formal celebration, be sure to check out the Mardi Gras Winemaker’s Ball at Les Bourgeois Vineyards, near Columbia. This formal Masquerade Ball will be held at the Blufftop Bistro on February 25.
Springfield offers the Queen City Mardi Gras Pub Crawl through downtown on February 25, with a variety of venues offering live music, dancing and more. Shuttles are provided.
Mardi Gras Kansas City offers two great events: a Masquerade Party on February 24 at Drexel Hall and a Mardi Gras 5K on February 25 (for those who can handle a race the morning after). If you’re 21 or older, the Power & Light District‘s own Mardi Gras Bar Crawl on February 25 includes stops at more than 10 bars and features street performers, fire jugglers, contests and more.
It’s not exactly Mardi Gras, but Ste. Genevieve celebrates its French roots with a different kind of pre-Lenten party: the annual King’s Ball, a French settler tradition that’s been celebrated for more than 250 years. Attendees dress up in French colonial costumes on February 4 and dance to traditional music at the VFW Hall.
If you can’t make it to any of the big parties, just remember the real point of Fat Tuesday: the traditional pancake supper, available at a church or fellowship hall near you.
Until Lent starts on March 1, it’s Mardi Gras … so get out and enjoy the bons temps!
Mardi Gras started out as a Christian holiday with roots in ancient Rome, where pagan traditions were incorporated into the new faith as a last hurrah before Lent. It became a legal holiday in Louisiana in 1875.
Masks are a Mardi Gras staple. In early days it was a way for people to be whomever they wanted to be and mingle with different classes, free from the social restrictions of the day. Now, it’s just a chance to don a confection of sequins, satin, feathers and lace.
Mardi Gras beads date back to 1872. History has it that the very first king of the Carnival in New Orleans was Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, who chose the Romanoff house colors to be the official colors of Mardi Gras: purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. The idea was to toss the color to the persons exhibiting the color’s meaning, but today you’ll see everyone draped in them at every celebration.