Mardi Gras comes to Tybee
February 23, 2009
EZRA SALKIN Staff Writer
On Saturday, Feb. 21, Tybee Island, Ga. joined for its first time a select number of U.S. cities celebrating Mardi Gras.
Sometimes called Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras traditionally falls before Ash Wednesday, the herald to the Catholic fasting season of Lent.
Other U.S. cities celebrating Mardi Gras this year include Mobile, Ala. and New Orleans, of which the celebration has become virtually synonymous.
On Feb. 21 however, on a pleasant afternoon on Tybee Island, this reporter was ordained with purple, gold and green beads by an old guy named Rufus with multicolored, tassel-strewn hair, wearing colossally wide-brimmed glasses.
A music group called the New Orleans Dixieland Jazz Band dominated the event, playing everything from Santana and Lynard Skynard, to blues. The blocked-off streets were packed with screaming kids, teenagers in baggy shorts and Jester hats, elderly people in lawn chairs and the occasional surfer. Everyone who looked of age carried a swelling cup of beer in their hand.
Venetian carnival masks, garlands of white and colored feathers, goofy glasses and beads sold briskly at local vendors. The owner of ACME Costumes, Nancy Cox, explained that the fun-loving, beach-going residents have the same Tybee patrons responsible for Pirate Fest to thank for the this year’s French Cajun festivities.
“Costume sales for this first time event are competitive with those for St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween. I’ve been here since 9 a.m. and there hasn’t been a dull moment yet.”
She attributed the high turnout for the day at least partly to displaced Louisiana residents who were pushed east due to Hurricane Katrina. “Some good ol’ fashioned grace accompanied by good weather, as well the fact that Tybee is still a place where you can walk with a cocktail in your hand probably doesn’t hurt either.”
The parade regaled the eager crowds with flag-weilding smiling alligators and feathered scarves, being driven along by old flamboyant Cadillacs, jeering despots, malevolently grinning cigarette butts in tubing devices, prismatic graffiti-ridden school buses and wagons driven by mad, masked French men and pirates, imposing ship masts and top sails, bug people with bulbous eyes and sagging antennas, not to mention a few beauties in bikinis. Purple, green and gold balloons, symbolic of Lent, flew everywhere.
In addition to the parade on Feb. 21, a fantasy masquerade ball was held the night before, where a King and Queen were crowned for best costume, as well best cocktail cup. Attendees of the ball were able to participate in tasting King Cake, a Mardi Gras delicacy similar to a cinnamon roll, topped with sugar or icing, and is usually colored purple, green and gold. Sometimes, a plastic baby Jesus is perched in the middle. Attendees also had the chance to dance to authentic Zydeco music, which is Louisiana Creole folk music. Traditionally, it has a fast tempo and is dominated by the accordion.
More information about Mardi Gras Tybee can be found at www.mardigrastybee.com.