By MIKE CHAIKEN
Pull out your colorful masks, don a flamboyant costume, fill your plate with food, grab your favorite beverage, and get ready to revel in the Louisiana style on Feb. 9.
That’s when the New England Carousel Museum brings back a little bit of New Orleans to the Bell City.
The Mardi Gras party is not a recent invention at the Bristol museum, which houses antique carousel and memorabilia and is also home to the Museum of Fire History and the Museum of Greek Culture
The first Mardi Gras party was held at the New England Carousel Museum 22 years ago, museum officials said.
And Louise DeMars, the Bristol museum’s executive director, said they had no idea what to expect in terms of public response when the party was announced over two decades ago.
When the day of Mardi Gras celebration arrived that first year, DeMars said the museum had 500 people show up. And two floors of the museum were packed with revelers to celebrate Fat Tuesday in the grand old New Orleans style.
More surprisingly, said DeMars, people were willing to pay $15 a piece for that first party. She noted that 22 years ago, $15 was a good sum of money for people.
For the next few years, the museum’s Mardi Gras party continued to have a “tremendous turnout” and had a great response from the community, said DeMars.
“We did it for years,” said DeMars. “But then it fell by the wayside.”
As the museum approached its 20 anniversary, said DeMars, the decision was made to resurrect the Mardi Gras party. And it’s been a “fun time” ever since, said DeMars.
“It helps pull people out of the winter doldrums,” said DeMars.
At the party, revelers will find bands, dancers, face-painting and more, said DeMars. (The exact details on the entertainment was still being worked on when DeMars was interviewed.) There will be a tea cup auction and a raffle. The party also will crown a King and Queen of the Mardi Gras.
At the event, said DeMars, people can wear masks. Additionally, she said, “We encourage outrageous costumes.” (Although she emphasized costumes should be within the bounds of good taste. After all, she said, the museum’s party is a “PG-rated” event.)
There isn’t a sit-down menu at the event, said DeMars. “But there is a finger food aplenty,” said DeMars. Many caterers and restaurants in the greater Bristol area donate food for this fundraiser. She likened the smorgasbord to a scene out of the 1964 movie “Tom Jones,” which starred Albert Finney. (The film is notorious for a scene with a bacchanalian feast among the main characters.)
This year, DeMars said the museum is trying something new for the Mardi Gras Party. It will be a BYOB event. She said the museum tested the waters of BYOB at its line-dancing nights with The Chapparells. And it turned out to be very successful, she said. The patrons enjoy bringing their own “libations” to the party.
As much as the event is a great time for all, DeMars emphasized, the event is a fund raiser for the museum.
“It’s one of the biggest (for the museum),” said DeMars. The funds raised go toward operating costs and “to pay the light bills.”
The 22nd Anniversary Celebration for the Mardi Gras 2013 will be held at The New England Carousel Museum, 95 Riverside Ave., Bristol on Saturday, Feb. 9 7 p.m. to midnight. The cost is $50 per person. Tables of eight may be reserved. RSVP by Feb. 3. Call (860) 585-5411 for your tickets. If you need a mask to get in the spirt of things, there are sine for sale at the museum’s gift shop.
For more information, go to TheCarousel Museum.org
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com
By MIKE CHAIKEN