Mardi Gras won't officially arrive until next week, but the season's indulgent celebrations peak this weekend, and whether it's music, moon pies or a masquerade, here are the top five reasons you should join the festivities:
1. The Mississippi Coast loves its Southern fare year-round, but Mardi Gras offers the perfect excuse to enjoy all the king cakes, jambalaya and moon pies we can handle. Maybe crowds and parades aren't your thing, but most can enjoy a little etouffee or a satisfyingly sweet hurricane cocktail.
2. Music and Mardi Gras go hand in hand, and Carnival events deliver plenty of opportunities to dance off that king cake to jazz classics like "Mardi Gras Mambo" by The Hawkettes, "Carnival Time" by Al Johnson and "Go to the Mardi Gras" by Professor Longhair.
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3. Masquerade balls highlight the season with chances to don sequined gowns, tailored tuxedos and elaborate masks while celebrating with local krewes and associations. Though traditional masks have mostly fallen out of fashion, balls still offer the chance
to get dolled up and break in your dancing shoes.
4. Perhaps the most iconic Mardi Gras attractions are the countless parades that roll through South Mississippi. Riders throw beads, doubloons and specialty throws, such as hand-painted oyster shells depicting Evangeline the Oyster Girl, a prized catch from the Raw Oyster Marching Club during the Mystic Krewe of Seahorse parade in Bay St. Louis. Catch the parade this year at 5 p.m. Feb. 8.
5. Besides Carnival season, when do we get to celebrate royalty of any kind? Mardi Gras gives krewes the opportunity to crown a king, queen and royal court, a traditional honor observed through coronations and a prestigious placement in that group's parade.
Mardi Gras madness may be the day's catchphrase, but it can be as simple as a delicious meal and a little jazz, or as exciting as enjoying a night parade in a festive mask. Make this year's celebrations your own and just enjoy the occasion.