There were good spirits on display and good spirits on tap at Mardi Gras 2015 at the Stockade Convention Centre on Feb. 14.
The annual event is put on by the Friends of the Performing Arts (FOPA) to raise money for the performing arts community. Walking into the convention centre the party atmosphere hits like a tidal wave of glitter. Christmas lights lined the walls, brightly-coloured masks and hearts were suspended from the ceiling and lights bathed the walls in shifting combinations of gold and purple and red and green.
The bar offered white rum, spiced rum and coconut rum, and shooters could be purchased with Mardi Gras-themed names like Green Jester and Jazzamatazz. For those feeling underdressed, booths were selling hats, masks, beads and boas.
Musicians played on two stages. A combination of rock and rhythm and blues music, old songs, new song and original compositions kept a steady portion of the festively-dressed audience on the dance floor throughout the night.
Keeping all of this together with the help of 70 volunteers is FOPA president Cindy Gratton, who donned regal garb as the queen of hearts in honour of Valentine’s Day.
“I’m fried, there are like 500 things going on,” she said. “The place is packed. I’m assuming our tickets are almost sold out, music’s sounding great, everyone’s happy. The costumes are great, I love seeing what people come up with from year to year.”
She just finished auctioning off the King Cake, a traditional Mardi Gras pastry similar to a coffee cake, with the help of city Coun. Jason Whiting. The cake was eventually bought for $400.
“That was an interesting one. First time ever being an auctioneer,” said Whiting, wearing a suit that looks like a shattered television test pattern. “I’ve always wanted to try it and it took a little bit of research and a little bit of YouTube as well to get an idea of what goes on.”
Later on, Whiting, along with Shawna Sovie from 106.1 FM the Goat and Nahreman Issa from Newcap News, would serve as judges for the costume contest.
On this Valentine’s Day edition of the Mardi Gras costume contest, the award for “best couple” went to a duo who has won for the past four years. They dressed as “woodland creatures,” and they started applying their prosthetics at 10 a.m. Now it’s 11 p.m.
The next day, Gratton is back at the Stockade, packing up the remains of Mardi Gras. She hasn’t had much sleep and she’s lost a bit of her voice.
“I think it’s from fatigue, and probably yelling,” she said. “I was probably yelling at some point.”
Now Gratton and the FOPA team are taking inventory and putting decorations in boxes for storage. Gratton says people were raving about the music and the atmosphere and she plans to ask some musicians back next year.
“It was a raging success,” she said, looking back on the previous night. “I think we raised a lot of money. We almost sold out. The place was full all night.”
Now with the party out of the way, FOPA can turn its attention to addressing performing arts needs in the community. Gratton says she has already received wish lists from some groups.
“(Mardi Gras) is an event like no other in Lloyd. It’s a really fun atmosphere and everyone’s happy and festive and there are fun decorations and music and costumes and we’re happy to put it on,” she said “It is a lot work (to organize) but it’s really rewarding on the night itself and then when we get to donate all the money.”
Next year’s Mardi Gras will be held on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016.