Mardi Gras Comes to Arkansas

Mardi Gras can be traced back to medieval Europe, from Rome and Venice in the 17 and 18 centuries, to France and her colonies.

Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday,” can also be called Shrove Tuesday. It typically begins on the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day). Mardi Gras then culminates the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Christian Lent season leading up to Easter. During Lent, many Christians fast, and the name Fat Tuesday refers to the last day of eating richer foods before the leaner days of Lent begin

Louisiana has become known for its Mardi Gras celebrations, and the reason is that Louisiana has a heavy French influence, due to colonization by France. Hence, the French name of the celebration.

On March 2, 1699, French Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at an area south of New Orleans, and named it “Pointe du Mardi Gras,” as he and his men were going to celebrate Mardi Gras. Bienville also established “Fort Louis de la Louisiane” in 1702. In 1703, the settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated the very first Mardi Gras in America.

New Orleans was established in 1718 by Bienville, with Mardi Gras being celebrated in the 1730s, but without the massive, intricate floats that it is known for today. The intricate floats would become common in the late 1830s.

Chaddie Platt, an organizer for the event gave insight to the event.

“People who want to get into the event form up into crews to create and decorate their floats. Some crews take weeks or longer to create their floats,” said Platt.

“The floats have always been creative and colorful,” said Platt.

Madeline Mitchell
A float in the parade put a twist on RuPaul’s Drag Race and carried some dogs through the parade.

Often, the colors most associated with Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold. Purple is to represent justice, green is to represent faith and gold is to represent power.

Masks and costumes are also commonplace. The masks are to ward away evil spirits, to mingle with other classes, keep your reputation untarnished and to keep an air of mystery or tradition.

Three citizens stood outside the Walton Arts Center in full costumes so viewers of the parade could get a picture with them.

Bead throwing is also associated with Mardi Gras, although it seems the colors of the beads hold more importance and tradition than the actual act of throwing the beads. The act of throwing beads could be a symbol of wealth and power.

While Mardi Gras has gained an unsavory reputation, the celebration here in Fayetteville was completely family-friendly, with events and participation geared toward said families.

The Mardi Gras parade was Saturday, Feb 22 at 2 p.m. The parade traveled from the Fayetteville Square down Block and Dickson Streets. The parade ended in the Walton Arts Center parking lot (Dickson and West Ave).

The Mardi Gras parade was the 29 annual Mardi Gras parade to be held locally.

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