A few days before carnival season reaches a crescendo of merriment in New Orleans, Rio and Venice, the celebration will hit its peak in Mount Airy on Friday evening.
The annual Mardi Gras party sponsored by the Columbiettes of Holy Angels Catholic Church on North Main Street is held the Friday night before Fat Tuesday, so it falls on Feb. 9 this year, and this year’s festivities promise more of the same good food and good times that the Columbiettes have been dishing up for years.
Adreann Belle, a New Orleans native, missed the festivities of her hometown when she moved to Mount Airy, and started the party as a way of bringing New Orleans to her new home.
“It has become our biggest fundraiser,” she said. “All of the proceeds go to charity. We do a lot of work with special-needs children, particularly autism. And also local food banks.
Belle said she is often asked,”Do you have to be a member of the Catholic Church to come?” She laughed and said, “No. When we first started, about three-quarters of the people who came had no connection to the church. Now it’s about half and half.”
“This is one of our biggest outreaches to the community,” Belle said. “Most people here have never been to a Catholic church, or been around Catholics very much. We’re such a small community. There’s only one church in town, and a lot of people don’t know us.”
But the church has grown to the point where services are held in the Monsignor Duncan Center, (the building behind the church where the annual Mardi Gras party is held). “That’s how we got our name,” Belle laughed. “We’re ‘The krewe of the folding chairs.” (Organizations that put on a parade or a ball during Mardi Gras season are known as “krewes.”)
Holy Angels puts on a parade during its Mardi Gras party, in the building where they have church services during which they utilize folding chairs. “So,” said Belle, “The krewe of the folding chairs.”
Belle said the ‘second line’ is her favorite part of the evening. A ‘second line’ is a New Orleans custom of following a parade, dancing and waving handkerchiefs and parasols or umbrellas. “If you’re in New Orleans, that’s what you’d be doing,” said Belle.
Belle’s husband, Don, who customarily serves as emcee of the party and pulls the float during the parade, waves an umbrella and other guests are provided squares of cloth in Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold.
The evening begins with a Mardi Gras feast of red beans and rice, two kinds of gumbo and pasta jambalaya, with bread and butter. After dinner, there is King cake complete with babies and prizes.
Melva Houston, long-time deejay for the event, will be returning as honorary deejay. Rodney Glidewell will be dealing with the non-honorary deejaying.
Raffle tickets will be on sale for a quilt and afghans. They are $2 each. A weekend trip to a Cherry Grove beach house will also be raffled off. Tickets are $3 or two for $5.
Tickets for the event are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. They can be ordered by calling Adreann Belle at 336-710-1481. Takeout meals are available for the same price. Takeout begins at 5 p.m. The party starts at 6 p.m. Costumes are welcomed and encouraged. Masks, Mardi Gras beads and handkerchiefs will be available.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.