The Dixieland sounds of Louis Armstrong performing the Big Easy classic “When the Saints Go Marching In” kicked off an annual favorite Friday night — the Mardi Gras Party at Holy Angels Catholic Church in Mount Airy.
And the fun didn’t stop there.
Thanks to long hours put in by the Columbiettes, the ladies auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus, more than 150 revelers turned out, ate and danced the night away.
The celebration has become a beloved event in the county as residents don their best purple and green, put on beads and fill up on Creole fair.
While the crowd ate, paraded and danced, the impetus for the celebration is much more serious.
“This is our largest fund-raiser of the year,” said Columbiettes spokesman Adreann Belle. “It literally makes the difference in our being able to operate throughout the year.”
Proceeds from the celebration will be used for service events in the community.
The crowd filled up on such classic dishes as red beans and rice, Creole File’ Gumbo with sausage and chicken, Jambalaya and Creole Seafood Gumbo.
And of course, there was King Cake, the traditional cake with a baby doll baked inside to represent the three kings who brought gifts to the Christ child.
Tradition dictates that whoever receives the doll in their piece of cake must buy the next King Cake or throw the next party.
Belle said the Columbiettes prepared 10 King Cakes this year, up a couple from previous years.
“Every year it seems like we have to make more,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a favorite, and since there isn’t going to be another party thrown this year for Mardi Gras, we give a price to every person who receives the doll in their piece.”
The night’s celebration also featured a traditional New Orleans parade and second line and the traditional Mardi Gras beads.
The annual celebration is an observance of the start of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday following Fat Tuesday, which is Feb. 12, this year.
“Mardi Gras literally means ‘fat Tuesday,’” said Belle. “It is part of the religious observance leading into Lent and was traditionally used to clean out the cupboards before the season of Lent.”
Event planners said members of the Columbiettes spent all day Thursday and most of the day Friday preparing the dishes, and were back on duty for much of the day Friday.
Belle said the party was a joint effort among the ladies auxiliary.
“Every one in the Columbiettes organization contributed to it,” she said. “They decorated the room and cooked all this delicious food.”
And if Wilma Fleming and Mary Jo White have anything to say about it, there will be plenty more celebrations in the future.
“This is our second time coming,” White said. “We came last year and enjoyed it so much we wanted to come back this year.
“We love it. It’s fun.
“And oh yes, we’re going to dance the night away.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 79-1929.