Manassas welcomes Mardi Gras

Following weeks of uncertainty as to whether it would be held or not, Mardi Gras comes to Manassas today.

The event will take place from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at two locations in Old Town. Children’s events will be held on Battle Street while adult entertainment will be at the Hero’s/Jake’s Seafood parking lot adjacent to the Center for the Arts building.

Organizer Charles Gilliam said he is hopeful the event will bring close to 5,000 spectators to the evening festival that will include bands, food, beads, masks and costumes, similar to the festivities that take place on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, La., on Shrove Tuesday. Capacity for the two sites is 3,500. “It’s going to be a great day with lots of fun for everyone,” said Gilliam.

Just weeks ago, it was uncertain whether Gilliam would gain approval from the City Council to hold the outdoor event. Last year, the council rejected the idea of an outdoor festival for Fat Tuesday following protests from some merchants and Christian activists.

This year, Gilliam was again denied the permit, but he appealed and ultimately gained approval for the event that now includes children’s activities and doesn’t close off a significant portion of Old Town’s roadways. Gilliam also promised the council tight security throughout the evening.

The adult portion of the festival will feature four bands on a stage set up in the parking lot. They include Less Traveled, the Steve Johnson Trio, The Will Gravatt Band and Junkfood.

Six restaurants will be selling food, and alcohol will be sold. A stage will also be set up on Battle Street where family entertainment will be conducted. The activities will include clowns, magicians, carnival games and crafts, face painting and balloon art. Admission into the festivities is $10 with children under 12 free with a paying adult.

In the past, the festival had been sponsored by Okra’s Louisiana Bistro of which Gilliam is part owner. However, Gilliam is sponsoring this year’s event alone under the name, “Fat Tuesday Productions.” Two bands will perform at Okra’s beginning at 4 p.m. They are Hot Sin-A-Men and Hurricane Johnson.

“After all the dreariness of the past several weeks, those coming to the Mardi Gras will see a lot of color and action to brighten up their day,” said Gilliam. “I’m really excited about the event … and a break in the weather is a welcome addition. I think it’s something a lot of people wanted,” he added.

Staff writer Bennie Scarton Jr. can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 125.

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