Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mardi Gras Recap

After spending a few days back in Nashville I headed back down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to celebrate Mardi Gras. Many of my friends were shocked when they heard we celebrated Mardi Gras on the Gulf Coast. They were even more shocked when I told them how many cultures around the world celebrate Carnival. Mardi Gras (called Carnival in most other cultures) was celebrated in Europe well before introduced to North America. It was also observed in the previous capitals of the French Louisiana Territories (Mobile and Biloxi) before New Orleans became an established city.

I got into Ocean Springs, Mississippi late Friday night and met up with my hosts: Dave, Heather, and their little boy Carter. Heather’s best friend Anna (my date for the Mardi Gras Ball) was also in town from Washington, DC. We didn’t get into much, we just enjoyed some of Heather’s homemade jambalaya, drank a few drinks, and had some great conversation. We knew Saturday would be a big day as we were going to a Mardi Gras Ball in Biloxi.

On Saturday, the girls went out to get their nails done while Dave and I watched the kid. Later we all met up at the Harbor Landing for lunch. The Harbor is a bar and grill located on the gulf. It’s got a great, laid back atmosphere. There are several patio tables and hammocks for lounging. Food-wise, the Harbor Landing is known for its picnic baskets that are sold to boaters, its po-boys, and stuffed burgers. I went with the Isla de Mujeres burger, which was stuffed with pico de gallo and cheese, and served with a handful of homemade potato chips. It was a fabulous meal served in a great relaxing atmosphere. After lunch we headed back to the house and the girls headed down to Shearwater Pottery for a little shopping. Shearwater is a pottery commune on the gulf. It was leveled during Katrina but it’s now back in business. They produce beautiful works that can be found in the homes of coastal Mississippians.

After a quick nap we started getting ready for the Revelers ball. We put on our tuxedos and evening gowns and took Carter to the sitters. We then headed to the Bankston’s house for a little pre-party. There were plenty of drinks and appetizers for everyone. I was pretty excited about several of the dishes that I never get to eat back in Nashville: marinated crab claws, Tippah county caviar, and corn and crawfish bisque. None of them disappointed. Say what you want about coast-folks, but we can cook a mean meal.

After enjoying a few drinks and making a few new friends, we headed down to the Coliseum for the Mardi Gras Ball. The ball is an event sponsored by a particular Krewe (the organization sponsoring the parade). In our case the ball was for the Revelers. When we arrived there was a long red carpet that led to men in white gloves and tails who escorted you and your date to your table. Once you got to your table you could hit the bar and wait for the announcement of the Tableaux. The Tableaux is the royalty of the ball cumulating with the King and Queen. The theme for this year’s ball was Disney related so each member of the Tableaux was dressed to represent a Disney movie. After the Tableaux is presented the dance floor opens and the drinks continue to flow. We all had a good time.

The next few days were relaxing and for the most part uneventful. We played at little tennis at a racquet club located on the bay and enjoyed the occasional adult beverage. We also had a great dinner at a Mexican restaurant which included me spilling a large margarita all over the table. The next big event was on Fat Tuesday, when we headed down to Biloxi for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Carnival Association/Krewe of Neptune Parade. We were lucky enough to be hosted by the Denton Family. We first met up at their house located near the parade route. Most of the people there had kids so they all played together while the adults (or bigger “kids”) enjoyed beverages and conversation. We later headed down to the Denton’s law firm which was located right on the parade route. We enjoyed some snacks and took in the parade. It was fun attending Mardi Gras with the kids.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is a special place and attending this year’s Mardi Gras (my first on the coast since high school) made me realize how much I miss living there. It’s a special place full of special people. Maybe one day I can make it back there to settle down.

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