WOONSOCKET – Tickets are on sale now for the city’s 2019 Mardi Gras, a gala celebration of music, dancing and Cajun food that mark its 25th anniversary this year.

The celebration takes place Saturday, Feb. 23 from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. at St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center, 84 Cumberland St. Emcee is Jeff Gamache.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and dinner will be served from 6-8 pm. There will also be a cash bar.

Live music will be provided by Jeff Gamache and Runaway Train and the Squeezebox Stompers, which specialize in Zydeco, Blues & Soul and Cajun Waltzes.

A full Cajun buffet will include mixed greens melange with tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and shaved parmesan cheese; artisan breads an d whipped butter, French meat pie, New Orleans Creole chicken and sausage over pasta; Cajun shrimp and rice; maple and bacon green beans; garlic roasted potatoes; Mardi Gras cake; and coffee station.

Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 cash at the door. Tickets can be purchased by calling Lorraine Cloutier at 401-762-9072 or by email at lcloutier1@cox.net

The Mardi Gras celebration will be preceded by the Mardi Gras queen’s coronation and the unmasking of King Jace, which will be held Friday, Feb. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m at Savini’s Pomodoro, 476 Rathbun St.

The five contestants vying to be crowned queen of the 2019 Mardi Gras Ball festivities – Geraldine Barclay-King, Ellen Cloutier, Amanda Girard, Ann Jalette and Nancy Sylvestre – are currently selling raffle tickets for a drawing to be held at the celebration on Feb. 23.

The title of queen and two princesses will go to the contestants who sell the most raffle and event tickets. Tickets for the raffle are $1 each and will be entered into a drawing for four prizes on the night of the Mardi Gras Ball. First prize is $500 cash; second prize is a $300 gift certificate to Mohegan Sun; third prize is a $100 Visa card and fourth prize, a $50 gift card to Savini’s Pomodoro Restaurant.

Many of the traditions of Mardi Gras have their roots in a Roman festival called the Saturnalia which celebrated the end of winter and the coming of spring. Over time, and with the spread of Christianity, the festival became a final binge of feasting and self-indulgence before the sacrifice of Lent. In 17th century Paris, the celebration came to be known as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday – a way for Christians to fatten up before the long Lenten season.

French settlers brought their traditions to Louisiana in 1766. By 1857, New Orleans began to develop its own traditions of masked balls, organized parades, and “throws” (favors such as beads, doubloons, and cups thrown from parade floats). In 1872, the King of Mardi Gras selected the celebration’s official colors of purple, green, and gold. The colors’ meanings were defined as justice (purple), faith (green), and power (gold) in 1892.

In 1954, the Mardi Gras tradition was started in Woonsocket by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. The four days of festivities earned the celebration the title of “Mardi Gras of the North.” The Jaycees’ involvement in Mardi Gras gave the king his name – King Jace.

Since 1995, the Northern Rhode Island Council of the Arts and the Mardi Gras Committee, with the help of our sponsors, have been working to bring the authentic feel and the fun of a traditional Mardi Gras celebration to Woonsocket.

Sponsors of the 2019 celebration are Potter Photography, Conway Tours, Boucher & Company, Downtown Woonsocket Collaborative, Manville Sportman’s Rod & Gun Club and St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center.

Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7

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