Photo by Curt Yeomans
Marquita Bundrage (left), the event and marketing coordinator for Clayton County Senior Services, and Tila Andrews (right), the assistant to the director of the department, wore elaborate, feathered head dresses to the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center’s annual Mardi Gras celebration.
Local senior citizens lived by the Mardi Gras slogan of “Laissez les bons temps rouler” — or “Let the good times roll” — at the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center, in Jonesboro, on Friday.
Mardi Gras 101
What is Mardi Gras?
It is a long celebration with ties to the Christian calendar. It begins with the Feast of the Epiphany — a commemoration of the three wise men visiting the infant Jesus — in early January. It ends with Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday.” The intervening time is known as “Carnival season” in New Orleans. Many communities on the Gulf Coast, from Mobile, to southeastern Louisiana, celebrate Mardi Gras with balls, parades and other general revelry.
When is it traditionally held?
Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, in the Christian calendar.
How did it begin?
Although it Mardi Gras, as we know it, is tied to the Christian observances of the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, it was not added to the Christian calendar until 1582, when it was put on the Gregorian calendar by Pope Gregory XIII. It was this pope who established the tradition of Mardi Gras being the day before Ash Wednesday. The French explorers Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste LeMoyne de Bienville are widely believed to have brought the celebration to North America. They are said to have celebrated their discovery of the mouth of the Mississippi River on March 3, 1699, with a party at a spot on the river known as Point d’Mardi Gras.
What is a krewe?
These are social organizations which organize Mardi Gras balls and parades. Well known krewes in New Orleans include Zulu, Rex, Endymion, Bacchus, Hermes, and Orpheus. There is even a krewe for dogs, known as the Krewe of Barkus, in New Orleans.
What is the 2013 date for Mardi Gras?
Feb. 12, 2013
The seniors were gathered for the center’s annual Mardi Gras party. Although the actual date for Mardi Gras was two weeks ago, that did not stop the residents from enjoying the celebration.
They brought a little bit of New Orleans-style revelry to the Southern Crescent by donning masks, catching Mardi Gras beads and dancing around the center’s social hall. They laughed with friends, had a little parade, and showed off all the beads they caught.
And, then there were the feathers — lots and lots of feathers. Almost every mask worn at the event was adorned with feathers, and two Clayton County Senior Services employees wore feathered Vegas Show Girl-style hats for the Mardi Gras parade.
“It was beautiful,” said Stockbridge resident Ruth Clark, who wore an elaborate, multi-colored, feathered mask during the event. “This was my first time coming to this event ... I loved it. This was a great day.”
This was the fourth year that the Griswell Senior Center has held a Mardi Gras event. The event is held every year so seniors who have never been to New Orleans can get “a little taste of Mardi Gras,” according to the center’s manager, Linda McKenzie.
“A lot of the seniors have never been to Mardi Gras, so this gives an opportunity to have that experience,” said McKenzie, who is a native of New Orleans. “Of course, now that we’ve done this a few times, some of the seniors want to know if we can go down to New Orleans, but I don’t know if we would be able to pull that off.”
The center’s annual event has caused attending seniors to have high expectations for a fun time, mainly because they enjoyed themselves when the celebration was held in the past. “This is my second time,” said Jonesboro resident Juan Shumate. “It was so much fun last year that I wanted to come back again.”
Although the seniors can not be in “The Big Easy” for Mardi Gras, they do receive an authentic part of the festival during the Griswell Senior Center’s event. The beads that are thrown to attendees during the center’s parade are actual beads that McKenzie’s family caught during Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans.
“I always do our event after Mardi Gras actually passes so I can get some beads from my family,” the center’s manager explained.
And, after the music stopped playing, and all of the beads had been tossed out to the attendees, several seniors — like Shumate — walked away with big smiles and a little pep in their step.
“It was above what I expected,” Shumate said. “It gets better every year.”