What do the colors purple, yellow and green mean to you? Certain holidays, foods, traditions and maybe even a certain school’s football jersey, stained from repeated contact with the ground, are all beautiful sights that come to Tuscaloosa once, sometimes twice a year.
If it’s not a home game matchup with LSU, it must be Mardi Gras.
How do we celebrate this holiday? How does Tuscaloosa earn its beads, bake its king cakes or make its hurricanes and hand grenades? Do we even at all? It’s easy to think we have no natural claim to the holiday so closely associated with New Orleans and the Bayou. Sure, Mobile is the original birthplace of Mardi Gras and is technically in Alabama, but 200 miles to the coast does seem like a long way.
Let it be known that there is still hope of celebrating Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” in Tuscaloosa.
Festivities start on the Friday evening before with a riverboat cruise that harkens a similar feel to the iconic steamboats of New Orleans. Newly refurbished and under new management, The Bama Belle paddlewheel riverboat will offer a Mardi Gras themed cruise along the Black Warrior River. Drinks will be available through the whole ride while passengers can enjoy live music and view of the river. The riverboat boards at 7:30 p.m. at 1 Greensboro Ave by the Riverwalk. From there, you might have time to catch the masquerade-themed rave, facepainting and ‘mocktinis’ hosted by the University Programs at the Ferguson Center from 7-10 p.m.
Take it easy Friday night, because on Saturday you’ll need to get up early. Start off with a chicory spiced coffee from Cravings grocery in downtown Tuscaloosa. It’s the style the famous Cafe Du Monde of New Orleans is known for. Across the street, The Children’s Hands On Museum is hosting a kid’s friendly Mardi Gras event from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. If you haven’t bought your beads yet, you’ll have a chance to make your own. DJ Chuckie will also be there to throw down some sick g-rated tunes.
By this point in the morning, if you’ve managed to handle the kids, you deserve a drink. Downtown has many restaurants with brunch specials where day drinking is welcomed, if not encouraged. Five Bar and The Avenue Pub have notable mimosas and Bloody Mary’s to go around. From there, the day is up to you.
On Monday, be sure to go by Mary’s Cakes Pastries to pick up your traditional king cake. It’s the circular cinnamon and cream cheese flavored cake decorated with the colors of Mardi Gras. Be careful, traditionally there’s a tiny plastic toy baby found inside the cake to remind you of the reason you’re celebrating.
Now, the big day is here – Fat Tuesday, otherwise known as Mardi Gras. The start of the real shenanigans can now begin. Dress in theme if you wish with purple, yellow and green; it makes everything that much more festive. Start your night with some great food from the appropriately-named Levee Bar Grill across the river by Dreamland. There they will have cajun-themed specials for the occasion. Gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and a dessert of beignet bites will supply enough grease and nourishment for your stomach to establish a solid foundation for what you will throw at it for the rest of the night.
From here, hit the town. Celebrate with your fellow patrons of Mardi Gras and collect as many beads as you can. Not many bars are planning to have a themed Mardi Gras night, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the fun.
Wherever you go, do try to make it to Catch-22 to have one of their famous infused drinks. Catch-22 is offering a pineapple, orange and cherry-infused rum in the spirit of the classic Hurricane cocktail.
The rest of the night may be blur and the methods of which you’ll acquire your beads and other holiday adornments may be a little less than ordinary, but you’re bound to have a good time.
As the saying in french during Mardi Gras goes, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”