For the third year in a row, the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council is hoping to expand a local celebration to draw in more tourists.

“This is the third year we’ve had the Mardi Quah celebration,” said Dick DeGeorge, chairman of the Tourism Council. “The Tourism Council started Mardi Quah with the intention of bringing in people from throughout the state, to create an attraction we could grow on each year. We’re trying to do that this year.”

Mardi Quah, a play on Mardi Gras, is set for Feb. 25, the last Saturday before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.

Organizers are already planning more events this year, with several changes to the way the event has run in the past.

“We have lots of exciting things being planned to make year’s Mardi Quah more fun and exciting that ever,” said Kate Kelly, assistant Chamber director.

The Kiwanis Club will host a pancake breakfast from 6-11 a.m., though a location isn’t nailed down yet.

The Mardi Quah parade is also planned, under the supervision of the Chamber’s parade committee and Jim Terrell. But this year, the parade is at 4 p.m., instead of in the morning. Parade forms are available at the Chamber officer for any organization or group that wants to be in the parade.

“The parade committee is the same group that organized the Christmas parade, and they did an outstanding job with that,” said Kelly. “I have no doubt they’ll create a fantastic parade for Mardi Quah.”

Beads and masks are also available for purchase at the Chamber to groups that want to hand them out at the parade.

“Last year’s parade was longer than the first year,” said DeGeorge. “We had some floats that were very creative, and we’re hoping for that same level of enthusiasm this year.”

The organizers are also working on some other events, targeted more for adults during the evening.

For afternoon activities, Kelly hopes to have things like mask-making classes or shoebox float workshops set up.

“In towns along the Gulf Coast, kids would make shoebox floats and take them to school during Carnival,” said Kelly. “We want Mardi Quah to be a fun event, but if someone learns something at the event, it’s a bonus.”

Kelly hopes the event will be an opportunity to educate people on Mardi Gras, as well as entertain them. “Unfortunately, most people’s perception of Mardi Gras is what they see on television, the little blurbs about Bourbon Street,” said Kelly. “That’s not the case. Mardi Gras has religious roots; it’s not all about partying.”

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, marks the end of carnival season, which begins Epiphany and ends with the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras can occur on any Tuesday from Feb. 3 through March 9.

“The fluctuation date was established by the Catholic Church, which designed the Gregorian calendar with a fixed date for Christmas, but with moveable dates for other religious holidays,” said Kelly. “Easter can fall on any Sunday from March 23 to April 25, and its exact date was set to coincide with the first Sunday after the full moon that follows the spring equinox.”

To spread the spirit of Mardi Gras around the city, Kelly is inviting local restaurants to get into the spirit by preparing a tradition Cajun or Creole dish to serve during Mardi Quah. “It’s an excellent way for businesses, especially those not along the downtown area, to get into the spirit,” said Kelly. “Morgan’s Bakery has already decided to participate.”

The celebration is good excuse for anyone to make and eat Cajun on Creole food, Kelly said.

“Even the most inexperienced cook can take part,” said Kelly. “Red beans and rice is one of the easiest things to fix.”

Kelly has already received several calls from people throughout the state who are interested in attending Mardi Quah this year, thanks to some publicity in regional tourism magazines.



Get involved

Organizers for this year’s Mardi Quah celebration are looking for volunteers to help out. To volunteer, contact Kate Kelly at the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, (918) 456-3742.

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