Places & Faces
Mardi Gras 2018
1/5/2018 4:49:59 PM
Mardi Gras
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Mardi Gras! It’s Louisiana’s most celebrated time of year, and we want Thrive readers to enjoy the party. In this special section, we’ll give you all the information you need, from local events to the latest in Mardi Gras fashion, home décor, and gift giving. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Let the Good Times Roll!
SWLA Mardi Gras Events Schedule

In Southwest Louisiana, people of all ages come together to celebrate Mardi Gras. Parade crowds, ballroom attendees, and festival-goers revel in high fashion and rich traditions, with events both formal and casual for everyone in the family.

"Mardi Gras is an incredible cultural event in Southwest Louisiana, bringing out some of the best music, food, celebrations and festivities that the area has to offer,” said Angie Manning, Communications Director of the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Every year, the Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts groups and travel journalists to promote our family-friendly Mardi Gras to audiences from around the world.” 

The 2018 season will kick off on Saturday, Jan. 6, with the magical Twelfth Night event, where more than 60 krewes make their glittering promenade.

The season continues with various gatherings and activities throughout the month, culminating in a flurry of parades and balls that lead up to Fat Tuesday, Feb. 13. "From the Iowa Chicken Run to the Gumbo Cookoff, the Royal Gala and street parades in communities throughout the area, it’s an enchanting time to be in Southwest Louisiana,” Manning said. 

On January 16, the Krewe of Golden Years will celebrate seniors who have preserved Mardi Gras traditions at the Lake Charles Civic Center. The event is free to seniors, ages 60 and up.

Get ready for a jam-packed few weeks of fun in early February. Here are some of the area’s biggest events: 

February 3 
Vinton Mardi Gras Celebration, 10:00 a.m., downtown Vinton.
Sulphur’s Parade and King Cake Taste Off, 2:00 p.m., Henning Cultural Center.

February 4
Lake Charles Chicken Run, 
1:00 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center.

February 8 
Lighted Boat Parade, 
7:00 p.m., Lakefront Promenade.

February 9
The Merchants’ Parade, 
7:00 p.m., Downtown Lake Charles

February 10
World Famous Cajun Extravaganza and Gumbo Cook-off. Judging at 11:30 a.m. Lake Charles Civic Center.

The Krewe of Barkus Parade, 
3:00 p.m., Downtown Lake Charles. 

February 11
Mardi Gras Madness 5K, 
2:30 p.m., corner of Lakeshore Drive and Gill St.

Children’s Day, noon - 3:00 p.m. Lake Charles Civic Center
Children’s Parade at 3:30 p.m. 

February 12 
The Royal Gala event, 7:00 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center. Sixty krewes, including kings, queens, royal dukes and duchesses, captains, courtesans and jesters.

Fat Tuesday
Iowa’s 38th annual Chicken Run, 8:00 a.m. 

The Krewe of Krewes’ Parade, 
5:00 p.m., Downtown Lake Charles. 

For more information, visit

Decor Masquerade 
Bring Mardi Gras to life in your home or office

Metallic masks, jesters, and a splash of brightly colored beads -- add a few of these items into your home’s staple décor, and anything goes this Mardi Gras. With a dash of glitter, a few key accents will have your home or office ready to roll for the 2018 Mardi Gras season. 

Lana Schaefer, co-owner of Changing Spaces in Lake Charles, said that when it comes to Mardi Gras, any color combination will work as long as you mix in some other traditional Mardi Gras elements to your décor. 

"Recently, I have observed more of a move away from the traditional colors of Mardi Gras to other color combinations. Really, any color combination will work if you incorporate some masks, jesters, or other Mardi Gras traditional themes,” Schaefer said. 

When it comes to decorating for Mardi Gras, folks tend to focus on the key areas of their home that are also the focal points at Christmastime -- the front door, fireplace mantle, dining table, and the occasional outdoor light display.

At Changing Spaces, decorators are available to help customers put together a theme for areas within their homes or offices. The store carries many items that can accentuate a Mardi Gras theme, including multiple metallic gold florals, beautiful candleholders, and sparkly sequin pillows to add a festive touch to your sofa or bedroom.

To decorate on a budget, Schaefer recommends using your Christmas décor to serve a dual purpose. "Any gold and green ribbons, ornaments and florals can easily be transformed into Mardi Gras décor simply by adding purple,” she said. "I often shop with Mardi Gras in mind as I purchase Christmas décor. Many items can be used for both holidays.” 

After Christmas, Schaefer recommends finding a few key Mardi Gras themed items to mix in with Christmas décor, pulling together a fresh, new look for the Carnivale season. "It doesn’t take much to completely reinvent the look of a room,” she said. "And, we are ready to help you in any way that we can.” 

Changing Spaces is located at 2202 Ryan Street in Lake Charles.  

Ballroom Ready
Explore the latest styles and trends for the 2018 season

Mardi Gras balls provide the perfect venue to glam it up -- bringing out the sparkle, sequins, and dramatic flare. This year, many ball goers are searching for creative and unique ways to go all out without spending a fortune.

"We’re finding that everyone right now is looking for inexpensive, one-time wear garments rather than the pricier options,” said Victoria Huber, owner of Rhinestone Runway. "Customers are more price savvy than they have ever been.”

Rhinestone Runway offers a huge selection with over 7,000 dresses hanging. The store has something for everyone with sizes 0-30, and a wide variety of affordable dresses at or below the $200 price point. "We have been very intentional in our selection this year to provide the most options for ball goers,” Huber said. "People are looking to make the dollar go further, and we are fully stocked and ready to help customers find what they are looking for this Mardi Gras season.” 

The 2018 Mardi Gras ball style focuses on simpler looks with color-on-color sequins and beading, Huber said. "People are very much into color-on-color this year, meaning that the beading and sequins match the color of the dress as well as the accessories. It’s becoming more trendy that the detail work be a bit more subtle instead of really out there and bright.” Nevertheless, bright colors and jewel tones are still very much in vogue; only they are being paired with less contrast in the accessories of the garment. 

Rhinestone Runway hosts a giant sale throughout the month of January each year to provide customers with more affordable options for Mardi Gras ballroom wear. "It is one of my favorite seasons of the year to help dress ladies for Mardi Gras,” said Huber. The store can also order from more than 70 different designers that they stock. 

Rhinestone Runway is located at 3040 Ryan St in Lake Charles. 

Royal Favors
Choosing court gifts that capture the Carnivàle spirit

The sights, sounds, and savory tastes of Mardi Gras tend to make a strong impression on people, both locally and around the world. Whether the season’s traditions were a childhood memory or a one-time tourist experience, people from near and far usually don’t forget Mardi Gras. 

One of the best ways to tangibly preserve the magic of Mardi Gras for friends is by honoring the timeless tradition of offering court gifts. In Southwest Louisiana, there are several local shop owners who offer their skill and expertise to help make Mardi Gras memories that last a lifetime.

Papersmith, 3101 Ernest Street, is one such venue that offers specialty items for court gifts. The store provides personalized service, helping customers find just the right gift for each individual. "For princesses, queens, and duchesses, we recommend keepsake pieces, such as jewelry and monogrammed items,” said Sara Smith, owner of Papersmith. "Some of the most popular items every year for court gifts include fleur de lis insignia gifts, serving pieces, and guest towels.”

In recent years, Smith has observed that consumable items are becoming more popular as court gifts. "While gifts do get very elaborate, another trend is toward consumable items; a bottle of wine or champagne, cute packaged candy or coffee, note pads and stationery.” 

Papersmith’s most popular brands for court gifts include Beatriz Ball serving pieces; Jon Hart personalized leather goods; Smathers & Branson belts; caps and koozies; Sugarfina and Sweet Shop candy, and custom personalized paper goods.

Navarra’s Jewelry store is another great place to find a wide variety of Mardi Gras serve ware, decorations, and jewelry -- all perfect for court gifts. The store has long been one of Southwest Louisiana’s most popular go-to places to purchase commemorative court jewelry pieces. The store’s owner, Tommy Navarra, said that engraved gifts, including silver goblets, barware, and jewelry in Mardi Gras colors, are some of the classic items people purchase to commemorate the occasion.  

Navarra’s Jewelry is located at 1025 Ryan Street in Lake Charles. 

Be Safe When Catching Those Beads

Nothing puts a damper on a parade like the uneasy feeling of being unprepared in case of an emergency. Parades are all about relaxing and having a good time, but having a contingency plan in case something goes wrong can make the experience more enjoyable. Here are a few tips to help you plan ahead for a good time this year: 

Arrive early
Choosing the right spot along the route is key to enjoying the parade. If you have children with you, make sure to select a well-lit area with less traffic, and stay safely behind the barricades. 

Bring a first aid kit
Having a few items on hand in case of an accident won’t hurt, and it will provide peace of mind, especially if you have children with you. 

Safely carry personal items
Try to have keys, wallet and cell phone safely stored in your possession. Many folks choose to wear a fanny pack or inside zippered pockets to keep these items close at hand. 

Become familiar with the area
Find out where the local police department is stationed along the parade route. Knowing where to go will make any kind of emergency situation easier to navigate.  

Dress in layers
Temperatures can change quickly, especially during evening parades. Make sure to have enough warm layers so you won’t be uncomfortable midway through the event. 

Know the rules
Many parade floats are large and extravagant. It can be difficult, especially after dark, for the parade floats to stop if someone runs out to pick up candy or trinkets. Use caution and know the rules for proper parade protocol that may vary depending on the time of day, etc. 

Most importantly, plan your parade experience so you can enjoy yourself and relax with friends and family.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of SWLA to Host a Lundi Gras Party

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Louisiana, with premiere sponsor Golden Nugget Lake Charles, is excited to announce a new event—the Lundi Gras Day Party! Lundi Gras parties have become a staple in the New Orleans Mardi Gras scene, and this event aims to bring the party right here to Southwest Louisiana. Bayou Rum has also partnered with BBBS-SWLA and will create a signature drink for the event.

"This event is aiming to take the day party concept -- made popular by young professionals in New Orleans -- and bring it here to Southwest Louisiana,” says BBBS-SWLA Executive Director, Erin Davison. "Everyone loves a good party in Southwest Louisiana and now we can party while raising money that goes toward mentoring programs for the children here in Southwest Louisiana.”

The event takes place on Monday, February 12, from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at Blue Martini in the Golden Nugget Lake Charles. The New Natives Brass Band will perform, followed by a guest DJ set by DJ TySki. The event will be cocktail attire and Mardi Gras masks are required. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased online.
All details and the link to purchase tickets can be found at

About Big Brothers Big Sisters of SWLA: 
BBBS-SWLA, a non-profit organization, has been helping children in the SWLA community for over 30 years. Big Brothers Big Sisters believes that all children should be able to achieve success in life.  Its mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally-supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. The Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs help children to achieve proven positive outcomes including educational success, avoidance of risky behaviors, higher aspirations, greater confidence, and better relationships.  To become a volunteer Big or for more information call 337.478.5437 or visit 
Posted by: Victoria Hartley-Ellender | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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