Mardi Gras

This South Mississippi town has gone 55 years without Mardi Gras. That’s about to change.

In 1963, some of the year’s top songs were “Surfin’ USA” by The Beach Boys, “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons, “The End of the World” by Skeeter Davis and “Fingertips” by Little Steve Wonder. Families were tuning in to “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “My Three Sons” and “Bonanza.” And in February of that year, folks in Lucedale are believed to have experienced their last Mardi Gras celebration.

That is, until 2018. In 2017, a group of Lucedale residents decided the town needed to celebrate once again.

The Lucedale Carnival Association will present the coronation of the 2018 Mardi Gras king and queen, kicking off the Carnival season, at 2 p.m. Jan. 2 at the Lucedale/George County Library, 507 Oak St. (across from City Park). A reception will be held after the ceremonies, and the public is invited. The identities of the royals will be revealed at that time, but their “official” names are King Gregory and Queen Sarah.

“That comes from Gregory Luce, the founder of Lucedale, and his wife, Sarah,” said Tim Grave, Lucedale Carnival Association president. Luce operated a lumber industry there, and the town was founded in 1901.

“I did a lot of research. We took a lot of time to research this, and what we found was that there hasn’t been a Mardi Gras parade in Lucedale since way back then,” he said.

The association’s inaugural parade will be held Jan. 20 in downtown Lucedale, starting at 11 a.m. “And at 9 a.m that day, we’ll have a ribbon cutting and cutting of the king cake to start it all off,” Grave said. “After the parade, there’ll be a Family Fun Day. They’re blocking off Oak Street behind the parade route. Seven local groups are going to perform. There’ll be food vendors, a couple of bounce houses, games, face-painting and a photo booth where you can be royalty for a day.”

Later, a Mardi Gras dance will be held featuring a Biloxi band, he said.

The idea of returning a Mardi Gras celebration to Lucedale came about partly because of convenience and hometown pride.

“We have a few people who live in Lucedale who travel to Mobile for the parades. One of our group is a member of Gulf Coast Carnival Association (in Biloxi) and about five are members of organizations in Mobile,” Grave said.

Mayor Darwin Nelson was onboard with the idea, and the City Council unanimously approved the parade.

“I knew we had people interested, but I didn’t know it would expand like it did,” Grave said. “So many people have expressed interest. It’s all been a learning curve for everyone.”

He emphasized that Lucedale’s celebration is intended to be family friendly and inclusive.

“Obviously, we’re different from Mobile. We’re a lot smaller, but we just want everyone to know that this will be for families to enjoy. We also wanted everyone to feel important and be part of it. We want it to be inclusive, and for everyone to know they can join. You don’t have to live in George County, either,” he said.

Currently, 40 floats are scheduled to participate, representing families and local businesses.

“Our only requirement is that you must wear a mask if you’re riding,” Grave said.

He said association members are looking into having “all the bells and whistles in place,” including a ball, for the 2019 Carnival season.

For more information about the Lucedale Carnival Association, visit the group’s Facebook page at .

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1