Mardi Gras comes to Asheville

On Jan. 21 I attended Asheville Mardi Gras’ Cajun Cookoff with Art and Oddities Auction at Tressa’s and it was fabulous! The place was dripping in purple, green and gold, and packed with friendly folks of all ages and backgrounds in costumes from lavish to frivolous, sampling sumptuous dishes that rivaled the fare at our best restaurants. The staff at Tressa’s was welcoming, gracious, helpful and supportive of the volunteer production team whose mission is to gift the city of Asheville with an annual, homegrown, fancy and free Mardi Gras parade and Queen’s Ball.

Now in its fifth year, the Asheville Mardi Gras downtown street parade promises to be more glorious than ever — a blast of zany, freewheeling energy glittering in the dead of mid-winter. Anyone can parade or attend the Ball with no entry fee.

When I left San Luis Obispo, Calif., in 2007 for a new life in Asheville, I knew I would be homesick for the joy and camaraderie that came from producing the Mardi Gras parade in my hometown. Hoping I’d find a band of fellow Mardi Gras aficionados in Asheville, I left furniture behind but brought my costumes and boxes of supplies, stashing them in the attic.

Once settled, I began my quest. At the Montford Festival, Twin Cousins caterers directed me to Sarah Widenhouse, wife of Je from Firecracker Jazz Band, serendipitously performing at that very time. Sarah suggested lunch with her friend Morgana Davis, and the 2008 Asheville downtown street parade was conceived, dedicated to Asheville’s Katrina refugees.

Since then the vibrant and sassy little populist parade has grown each year. Asheville Mardi Gras is now a membership organization incorporated with the state of North Carolina. Memberships, in addition to the cook-off/auction and with the support of our “saint” business supporters, cover all expenses. Anyone can join ($20) to help fund the party!

I am thrilled to have found my tribe, and to have met so many wonderful people dedicated to creativity and community!  To join, enter the parade, or for more information, visit or find us on Facebook. Laizzez les bons temps rouler!

— Carol Pimentel

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