Mardi Gras is coming, time to review and tweet

Mardi Gras rolls around about this time every year bringing Fat Tuesday and signaling celebrations held worldwide. In the United States, the focus is on New Orleans and this year the city is sponsoring some special events including a family-friendly focus and a special series of Twitter Chats leading up to the celebration.

About a million people will take to the streets of New Orleans for the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. Throughout the celebration, the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold can be seen around the city. Purple, green and gold officially became the colors of Carnival back in 1872 when Alexis Romanov, Grand Duke of Russia, visited New Orleans for Mardi Gras. In the Duke’s honor, the city adopted the Romanov family colors of purple, green and gold, representing justice, fidelity and power.

Also a tradition of Mardi Gras, King Cakes came to New Orleans with the French and began as round, custard-filled pastries decorated with crowns. King Cakes remain extremely popular throughout the city during the carnival season and are often compared to a coffee cake, drizzled in icing and decorated with sugar dyed the traditional colors. Tradition holds that whoever gets the ornamental baby hidden inside the cake at the first party had to give a king cake party the following weekend.While costumes are not required, most carnival revelers join in the fun with wigs and glitter making outrageous outfits welcome all carnival long.

Although a time of revelry, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is routinely celebrated with the entire family. Many local families come together on the Avenue and set up chairs, ladders, ice chests and tents for the parades.

This year, a question and answer Twitter Chat (#MGQA) will take place every Tuesday from 2:00-3:00 CST from now until the start of Mardi Gras with questions answered by the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation‘s ( NOTMC) two Twitter accounts @VisitNewOrleans and @GoNOLA504 as well as the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau’s (NOCVB) Twitter account @NewOrleans. Participants are encouraged to use the #MardiGras hashtag.

Also new this year, a special Mardi Gras New Orleans 2012 web site has been launched featuring parade schedules, tips for visitors and a live webcam during events.

There, now we’re up to speed on Mardi Gras. No test.

Flickr photo by DoctorWho

Universal Orlando announces Mardi Gras concert lineup

Thirty Seconds to Mars, Ne-Yo and Blake Shelton are among the headliners just announced for Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras this spring.

The 2011 Mardi Gras celebration happens on weekend nights Feb. 12 through April 23 at the Universal Studios Florida theme park in Orlando, Florida.

Here’s the concert lineup:

  • Feb. 12: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
  • Feb. 19: The B-52s
  • Feb. 20: KC & The Sunshine Band
  • Feb. 26: Pitbull
  • March 5: Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • March 12: Foreigner
  • March 18: Neon Trees
  • March 19: Thirty Seconds to Mars
  • March 25: OneRepublic
  • March 26: Blake Shelton
  • April 1: Sean Kingston
  • April 2: Ne-Yo
  • April 9: Lifehouse
  • April 16: The Beach Boys

Universal’s Mardi Gras also includes a nightly parade with floats designed by Blaine Kern Artists in New Orleans, and, of course, lots and lots of beads.

A “French Quarter” street party serves up cajun food and musicians playing blues, jazz and zydeco.

Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras is included with regular theme park admission to Universal Studios Florida – no separate ticket is required for the concerts.

Mardi Gras the green way: Think recycle

When buying up those Mardi Gras beads and trinkets to feel festive with the best of them, look for beads that have been recycled. Every year beads by the bushels (lots and lots and lots of beads) are tossed into the crowd who watch the parade. These cheap plastic baubles from China (see post about bead safety) may be great around a person’s neck but not in a landfill.

The Sierra Club and Arc of Greater New Orleans have a joint effort going to get people to buy recycled beads from them. Not only are you helping the environment, but you’re helping these two organizations that are working towards rebuilding New Orleans. The thing is, the beads are sold in 30 pound bags. That’s a lot of beads. They also have other recycled Mardi Gras goods.

To find out how to get these recycle beads and other Mardi Gras trinkets, head to the Sierra Club Delta Chapter Web site. The phone number and email are listed there. While you’re at the site, check out the other efforts being made to help New Orleans ecologically rebuild. The Greater Arc of New Orleans is located at 925 S. Labarre Road. This is an organization that serves adults with developmental disabilities. You can also turn in beads for recycling here. There are two other locations. Call 504/837-5105 for information.

To buy artsy and interesting products made from recycled beads, check out Unique Products. There is a wide selection of night lights like the one pictured. The money from these purchases also goes to aid New Orleans. You can buy on-line.

Mardi Gras beads by the handfuls: What to do with them?

I’ve never been to Mardi Gras but I have beads. My first few came from a good college friend of mine who came back from New Orleans with a smile on his face and tales of forgetting that he’s from a “nice” family. Not really, I do know he had a grand time and bought beads back for everyone.

Acquiring lots of beads and trinkets is one way to measure how much of a good time one had at a Mardi Gras parade. I imagine the experience is like a giant pinata that takes forever to empty–all those colors flying.

These beads have been part of Mardi Gras since 1920s when throwing trinkets to spectators started to become a feature. The original “throws” (what is thrown) were cheap glass beads instead of the lightweight plastic ones of today. [Check out this National Geographic article for a detailed history.]

If Mardi Gras beads rain your way there are some things you can do with them once you get them home. Here are directions for how to make a floor lamp. You can also knit a scarf. How about a bead dog?

I bet you could glue those beads on about anything. Buy a cheap picture frame, cover it with beads and show off your favorite Mardi Gras snapshot. That’s my idea.