Eureka Springs to Celebrate Fat Tuesday in True New Orleans Style
Jill M. Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Dept. of Parks and Tourism
Have your cake and eat it too; King Cake that is, right here in Arkansas. In true New Orleans style and with the help of a Hurricane Katrina transplant, Eureka Springs will begin its six day Mardi Gras celebration on Feb. 19.
Also known as Eureka Gras, the Mardi Gras events in Eureka Springs come with much foot stomping, umbrella pumping and handkerchief waving fanfare. New Orleans native Dan Ellis leads the way with an accent and a passion that do justice to the sound and meaning of the words “Laissez les bon temp roulez,” or “Let the Good Times Roll.”
Born and reared in New Orleans, Ellis said, “[Mardi Gras] is in my teeth, in my toes and in my nose.” He’s been involved in some of the biggest Krewes in Louisiana and Washington D.C. He was on the Krewe of Louisianans for 21 years and is a past member of the original Pete Fountain "Halfast Marchin' Club," which still spins its way through the New Orleans French Quarter each year. Uprooted from his home in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Ellis made his way to Eureka Springs in November of 2005.
When he realized he was going to stay in Eureka Springs, he also recognized the need to get Mardi Gras celebrations going in earnest. “The first two years the money was mostly out of my own pocket,” Ellis explained. “Some people like fishing and golfing. I’d rather do parties.” And so, Ellis is in his fourth year of planning Mardi Gras. Each year he tries to expand his event offerings and broadcast the plans to more people.
“More and more people are catching the fire,” Ellis added. Mardi Gras literally means Fat Tuesday and describes a day of merrymaking on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. In New Orleans and many Roman Catholic countries, a week or more of parades and parties occur prior to the Tuesday celebration.
“I want people to realize they don’t have to go to New Orleans to get a New Orleans-style Mardi Gras,” Ellis said.
The Krewe of Krazo (Ozark spelled backwards) kicked off this year’s carnival season on Jan. 11 with a Kings Day Party at the Rowdy Beaver Restaurant and Tavern to announce the new court. Serving as King and Queen are Zeek Taylor and Elise Roenigk, both of Eureka Springs. Richard Davies, executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, will serve as the 2009 grand marshal. Five dukes and duchesses fill out the rest of the court.
Activities for the royalty and public at large will run from Feb. 19 through Feb. 24.
The festivities will start with a new event, the Hookers and Jokers Ball. This masquerade ball is open to everyone dressing in a costume of the theme “Gay ‘90s,” “Guys and Dolls,” or “Freakin' Eurekan.” The event will begin at 6 p.m., Feb. 19 at the Inn of the Ozarks Best Western Convention Center. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.
“We’ll have a good New Orleans-style jazz band and two vocalists, one from the Mobile area and the other from Houston. Those are good strong jazz vocalists that will belt out some good jazz music,” Ellis said. “And we’ll have some local folks to mix it up so everyone has a little fun.”
The Coronation Ball and Masquerade Dance will start at 6 p.m., Feb. 20 at the Crescent Hotel and is by reservation only. The ball will include the grand procession of the royal court, entertainment by Big Sound Music and a champagne supper buffet for $25.
A Mardi Gras Parade is set for 2 p.m., Feb. 21. Anyone that is in costume can join in the parade. Lead by the Krewe of Krazo, the parade theme is “Art Whirl & All That Jazz.” Other walking groups include: Krewe of Wobniar with the theme “Rainbow Whirl” and Krewe of Barkus, consisting of canines, with the theme “K-9 Munchkins.”
The parade route will be Spring Street to South Main Street, to North Main Street, ending at The Art Colony. The annual Krazo Kostume Kontest will take place at 3:30 p.m. at The Art Colony with cash prizes awarded for best costume.
Rowdy JazzFest will take place at 7 p.m., Feb. 21 at Rowdy Beaver Restaurant and Tavern. Featuring music by Jane and Shane, the jam sessions will include jazz, blues and rock ballads.
The Crescent Jazz Trio will play from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 22 during the Jazz Brunch at the 1886 Crescent Hotel. Champagne and a buffet brunch will be served at a cost of $25. Reservations are recommended and may be made by phoning 479-253-9766.
At 5 p.m. that evening there will be more jazz and blues music at the New Delhi restaurant.
From 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Feb. 24, King Cake and punch will be served in the lobby of the Community First Bank. From 4:30 until 7:30 p.m. on the 24th there will be a pancake supper at the Best Western Eureka Inn Gazebo Restaurant.
Mardi Gras festivities will end on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 24 with a pub crawl of people in extravagant, gaudy, colorful and festive attire. The Second Line Krazo Bar Krawl will begin at 4 p.m. at the Pied Piper and wend its way down the street stopping for special drinks and snacks at each pub along the way until reaching Chelsea’s. Costumes and/or masks are a must for those interested in participating.
Ellis’ goal is to have the longest second line in the world with the hopes of officially challenging New Orleans in future years.
Ellis said those interested in participating in the Mardi Gras festivities should bring their own costumes because there is no easy place to rent masks or costumes. He added that many of the hotels are providing packages that include tickets to the balls. For more information, and a video of last year’s celebration, visit www.krazoureeka.org.
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501-682-7606
May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"
I have writing about this for years, now finally Eureka Springs Mardi Gras gets some well deserved press.
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