Pageantry! Parades! Exotic Floats! Outrageous Costumes! Masked Crowds! Carnival Royalty! High-stepping! Strutters moving to the rhythms of Dixieland Jazz! Uninhibited Merry-making! MARDI GRAS!
Mardi Gras celebrations go back several hundred years. The term “Mardi Gras” means “Fat Tuesday” and refers to the day before Ash Wednesday – the first of the forty days of lent preceding Easter. Christians on the time customarily gave up meat and other indulgences during lent, thus “carneval” or “farewell to meat” - - became “Carnival”, a festive period when over-indulgence was in order.
The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple, gold, and green. However, Krewes (secret groups that make up the cast of characters in Mardi Gras) selected their own colors to brandish during Carnival. Kings and Queens and courts of these krewes are selected with utmost secrecy. Beads, doubloons, and other trinkets are tossed to spectators along the Mardi Gras route as “throws” – the traditional souvenirs of every Mardi Gras.
Because Mardi Gras is celebrated in various cultures around the world costumes and music vary according to location. Lake Wales has incorporated traditions from many of them including feathered costumes from Rio, Dixieland Jazz, Blues and Zydeco music, Cajun food and mask from New Orleans. Another tradition adapted from New Orleans is the Krewe of Rex as the lead Krewe in the parade escorting the Queen of Carnival and Prince of Wailes (our version of rex, King of Carnival). The Prince of Wailes is selected from the members of the Krewe of Rex. The Queen of the Carnival is selected by the hiding of the “Golden Bead” in the ceremonial “King Cake” which will be served to all the ladies present – she who finds the golden bead will take her place beside the King of Carnival.
The essence of Mardi Gras is in participation and be best explained in the words of Robert Tallant:
“Mardi Gras is s spirit….an immortal one….as immortal as man’s ability to make believe, to escape the dreariness of everyday life that is most of men’s portion, to have fun, laugh, and to play…Mardi Gras is very old, but it is also very young. It belongs to the past, yet also to the present and the future. It will exist in other forms, in other times, in other places. It would be wonderful if the clown in the grinning mask should appear on all the Main Streets of the world, if . . . there could be a season, or at least a day, devoted to laughter.”
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Our heartfelt thanks to the Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing
& TDC for their generous support of the Lake Wales Mardi Gras
Organization and Event