As they say, laissez

a href=”“God bless these New Orleans folks. They know the best music, the brightest colors, the wildest adventures and, good heavens, the best food. And bless ‘em for getting together in Asheville and bringing us a Mardi Gras season, complete with a Bacchus Sunday parade.

This year, the NOLA expats and all those kindred spirits who aren’t necessarily Louisianan by birth have organized even more opportunities for gaiety. They’re working toward nonprofit status in an effort to keep all the events free, from Twelfth Night to the afternoon parade through downtown.

Who can join Asheville Mardi Gras? Anyone, and everyone, says Amy Kemp, this year’s chair. “Members may be highly skilled costumers, natives of Louisiana, have spiritual ties to the traditions of the season or simply recognize a splendid opportunity to be creative while having fun,” she writes. “Members are fun-loving and radiant, creating festivities that resonate with laughter and visionary delight. Members come from throughout the community … ‘Members own the party!’”

Having Mardi Gras in the mountains means more than midwinter fun, and a jolt of color during the gray season. It’s a boost for downtown businesses during a slower time of year, and Asheville Mardi Gras has reached out to partner with a number of local establishments to host events.

Tressa’s Downtown Jazz and Blues hosted the epic Cajun Cook-off in January, wherein anyone with $10 was treated to heaps of amazing Louisiana food (please do it again before next year — we can’t wait that long). The event was a benefit for the Mardi Gras group, with $20 memberships available — for that, you got a sweet handmade pin to wear throughout the season. 

Next up is the parade and Queen’s Ball. “Both the parade and ball are the organization’s gift to the public,” Kemp writes. “They are friendly, free and open to all ages!” This year’s parade will feature a real, live wedding, between the Mardi Gras King and Queen, who will float down the streets on a giant wedding cake.

If you didn’t get a krewe (Mardi Gras for parade group) together for this year, keep it in mind for next. Any group can form a krewe — civic associations, churches, school groups, businesses, friends, whomever.

And what krewes we have. “The amazing Western Carolinian art community offers the talent that makes Asheville’s Mardi Gras events spectacular,” Kemp says. “Art permeates the mountain air, and can be found in every crack and crevice of this fine city. Mardi Gras brings that creative energy to the streets for everyone to appreciate and enjoy.”

who: Asheville Mardi Gras
what: Third annual parade and Queen’s Ball (featuring music from Snake Oil Medicine Show plus surprise guests)
where: Downtown Asheville/Pack’s Tavern. Parade route begins at Wall Street and loops around the Grove Arcade.
when: Sunday, Feb. 19 (2 p.m. with Queen’s Ball to follow at Pack’s Tavern, until 10 p.m.) Free and open to the public. Find out more at http://www.ashevillemardigras.org or the organization’s Facebook page.

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