Rather than attend the City Commission meeting last Tuesday evening, I decided to celebrate Mardi Gras instead. I invited friends over, decorated with colorful beads, made Jambalaya, and got the libations flowing.
This year I decided to challenge myself and give up something for Lent, so I felt especially entitled to celebrate one last evening of feasting and frivolity before Lent began at midnight. Sitting at a Commission meeting was not what I had in mind.
All around the world, Christian and pagan revelers alike begin celebrating days and weeks before, building into a frenzy of excitement, debauchery, and excess, culminating in Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday (the literal French translation), the day before Ash Wednesday.
It is the last day of partying before the beginning of Lent, a time of reflection, abstinence, and fasting. This custom actually predates Christian times. Early Romans performed a 40-day fasting period preceded by a period of merrymaking, celebrating, and feasting. This was and still is a late winter celebration to mark the coming of springtime.
Commissioner Tom Green has been pushing for a Mardi Gras Festival here in Wilton Manors for years. Unfortunately, the idea has never gained traction or been seriously considered. I dare say, I think we are missing a golden opportunity.
Along the Gulf Coast, an entire month of celebrations, special festivities, balls, and parades are eagerly anticipated and coordinated from Pensacola west to Galveston, with the premier event, of course, in New Orleans. It is an economic boom for all these cities and brings tourists from all over the world to party and spend money.
With the current economic upswing, our near perfect winter weather, the influx of snowbirds from all over the U.S., Europe, and Canada, and our love of a fancy parade and great party, I can already see Wilton Drive packed with revelers dancing and cheering as the Mardi Gras Parade flows past, participants tossing colorful beads and candy from their floats.
Wilton Manors can and should lead the way in establishing a Mardi Gras tradition here in South Florida. This celebration can easily grow to include neighboring cities such as Fort Lauderdale and Oakland Park, with a series of events, all building up to the main attraction on Fat Tuesday, the parade and street festival along Wilton Drive. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau is a likely partner that would have the vision to see how this could become a major regional event during the busy tourism season, drawing many to scheduled festivities and producing a substantial amount of dollars for local governments and businesses.
Seems like a fun win-win to me! So let us climb on board Commissioner Green’s Mardi Gras bandwagon and start the ball rolling!
Because life can be just a little more fun here!