City Roots transformed into a sea of green, purple and gold, with feather boas and sparkling masquerade masks everywhere. The Mardi Gras Columbia parade following a 5K race had led costumed participants of all ages —and their dogs — through Rosewood to an all-day celebration despite gloomy weather on Saturday.
Festivalgoers got a taste of Bourbon Street with traditional Mardi Gras dishes, such as crab cakes and dirty rice, with other vendors offering more traditional food. The Abita Brewing Company, a Louisiana-based brewery, provided drinks for the festival.
Each year, the festival attracts both veterans and newcomers. David Hunt, who has been attending the festival for years, said the wide variety of music is one of his favorite parts of the day. With Cajun grass groups and rock and roll bands, the four stages of music had something for every taste. A major highlight was a local brass group.
“The Soda City Brass Band brings a whole new element and jazz to the festivities,” said Hunt. “The bands are so much fun.”
Despite the less-than-ideal weather, the high-spirited crowd was not quickly deterred. The singing, dancing and drinking continued through intermittent rain showers. First-time participant Hannah Whitton, a fourth-year environmental science student at USC, was surprised by the high energy level.
"People were dancing in the rain,” said Whitton. “That’s the thing … it rained and nobody left.”
Another first-time attendee, Traci Teagle, was impressed by everyone’s enthusiasm. Her one regret of the day was not wearing more purple and green.
“Everyone really outdid what I thought they would do,” said Teagle. “People were handing me beads as soon as I got here … morale is high.”
Although the festival concluded on Saturday at dusk, the community will continue to experience the positive impact of the festival. This year’s festival benefited “Heroes in Blue,” a nonprofit organization that promotes positive relationships between local police and community members and provides support for families of fallen officers.
Mardi Gras Columbia was hosted by The Krewe de Columbi Ya Ya, who organized the festival. The Krewe also holds events throughout the year to keep the Mardi Gras spirit alive. Mardi Gras Columbia will return again next year with different music and food vendors, but the same New Orleans enthusiasm.