Sunday, February 22, 2009

Middletown Represented at RI Mardi Gras

A contingent of Middletown residents traveled to Cranston Rhode Island Saturday night to celebrate Mardi Gras at the 17th Annual Mardi Gras Ball at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, a renovated thirties-era ballroom.

Mardi Gras, or fat tuesday, is alternately called Shrove Tuesday, or celebrated in the Caribbean and South America as carnivale. It's the last Tuesday before the Catholic observance of Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter.

In New Orleans, Louisiana, Mardi Gras is famous for parades and weeks of celebration culminating in the final partying on Tuesday (an Eye correspondent regularly attends, and we hope to hear from her). In the Cajun and Creole regions of Southwest Louisiana, the celebration is no less outlandish, but it refers to some of the ancient rituals in a more direct way. For a week prior to Mardi Gras, there are parades, parties and lots of eating and drinking.

The party in Rhode Island stems from a decades long relationship between music promoters in that state, and musicians who have regularly visited. This is the first year that the celebration in Rhode Island actually took place on Mardi Gras weekend. Typically it is too difficult to induce participation by Louisiana bands who can play every night for a week at home.

Saturday, Jeffrey Broussard and his Creole Cowboys led off the evening of dancing with old and new creole and zydeco songs. Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys bookended his performance with altogether different versions of the traditional La Chanson de Mardi Gras. The evening ended with a zydeco blowout delivered by CJ Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band.

Proceeds from the event benefit Very Special Arts Rhode Island, an organization which brings art and arts activities to physically and mentally challenged individuals.

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