Partying in the street is not limited to New Orleans. Leesburg’s Mardi Gras celebration has become a premier event that most residents anticipate with delight. As always, there’s family fun with activities and parades for kids and pets along with the ultimate event that has everyone dancing in the street.
Like Christmas, Mardi Gras is a whole season, not just one day. The dates of these events are calculated based on the first Sunday after the full moon following a spring equinox. Fat Tuesday marks the day before Ash Wednesday and gets its name from the overindulgence practiced the day before Lent begins, which ends Easter Sunday.
The colors of Mardi Gras have significance, too. Purple stands for justice; gold symbolizes power; and green is for faith. These colors are prevalent in costumes, floats, beads, and other elements of the season.
When the Leesburg Partnership planned its first Mardi Gras, they started from scratch. “I actually had to go to New Orleans to learn about it,” said Joseph Shipes, executive director of the Partnership. “We even had our own Mardi Gras store in the old days.”
Carman Cullen-Batt was the director of development at the Partnership in those days, and she said it was a group effort that has proven a boon for Leesburg. “I knew we needed a mid-winter event, and Mardi Gras was perfect. We developed something that is a family-friendly event during the day and at night is very entertaining.” Carman is now executive director of the Educational Foundation of Lake County and plans the yearly Renaissance Faire.
The four parties prior to the big parade down Main Street provide an opportunity for candidates running for King Rex and Queen Divine to earn votes and raise funds. The candidates for Queen Divine are Moneca Monroe, Kelly Owensby, and Mandy Wettstein Talmage. Those vying for the title of King Rex are J. Matt Maddox, John Malik Jr., and Matt Tatton. The king and queen who raise the most money are crowned in a special ceremony. Money raised by the candidates is used to fund various events in Leesburg throughout the year.
“It’s important to come out and support the candidates at these parties,” said Joanie Smalley, chairperson of the promotions committee. “You can vote for any and all of them at every event.”
The final big party is The Crowning Ball, which will be at the Leesburg National Guard Armory, featuring the well-known band from Jacksonville, Kai Alece & Company.
All of this leads up to the big day and 12 nonstop hours of fun, food, and festivities. The 19th annual Mardi Gras Party in the Street, which is from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., will feature jugglers, stilt walkers, face painting, balloons, beads, and general madness. Events during the day include the Kid’s Parade (11 a.m.) and the Pet Parade (2 p.m.). When darkness falls, the vivid colors of the Main Street Parade (7 p.m.) light the night with floats, beads, and the royal couple—King Rex and Queen Divine.
“We’re always learning, always adding new things, and making it better,” Joe said. “It’s a year-round process that ends in fun.”
[row] [column lg=”4″ md=”12″ sm=”12″ xs=”12″ ] Suicide Karaoke & Bowling
Thur., Jan. 7, 6 p.m. $5
10401 Hwy. 441
Leesburg’s Got Talent
Thur., Jan. 28, 6 p.m., $5
Starlight Ballroom Dance & Center
414 W. Main St.
[/column] [column lg=”4″ md=”12″ sm=”12″ xs=”12″ ] Reverse Draw
Wed., Feb. 3, 6 p.m., $5
Leesburg Opera House
108 S. 5th St.
19th Annual Mardi Gras Ball: A Crowning Event
Fri., Feb. 5, 6 p.m., $50
Leesburg National Guard Armory
440 W. Meadow St.
[/column] [column lg=”4″ md=”12″ sm=”12″ xs=”12″ ] 19th Annual Party in the Street
Sat., Feb. 6,
11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Main Street Parade
Sat., Feb. 6, 7 p.m.