19 Dec 2023
The Carnival or Mardi Gras season officially starts on Jan. 6, the Day of Epiphany, and runs until Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. It’s all about the celebration, with food, drink and dancing being part of the festivities.
Coastal communities have thrown carnival celebrations since 1699, starting as a French Catholic tradition when the Le Moyne brothers arrived on the Gulf Coast in the late 17th century.
In 1703, French settlers in Mobile, Ala., began celebrating the Mardi Gras tradition. The New Orleans Mardi Gras, a better-known celebration, draws hundreds of thousands of tourists. New Orleans held its first Mardi Gras parade in 1833.
Those communities have nightly parades and balls, and crown a King and Queen to rule over the Carnival season. Georgia’s coastal communities have their own take on the celebrations.
This year, Mardi Gras day falls on Feb. 13, but Tybee Island’s festivities start the weekend before.
The island gets all decked out in purple, gold and green. Throw some beads around your neck and get in on the fun. On the Saturday before Mardi Gras, the traditional King’s Parade rolls along Butler Avenue with colorful costumes and themed floats.
On Sunday afternoon, the Street Party/Beach Bash takes place with live music acts playing throughout the day on the beach. Kid-friendly activities such as face painting and carnival games are on site both days, as well as late night fireworks shows every night after dark.
In Savannah, the Fifth Masquerade Mardi Gras Celebration takes place at the American Legion Post 135, 1108 Bull St., from 7-11 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10. Formal attire and masquerade masks are encouraged, but be sure to wear your dancing shoes. Tickets start at $45 for this over-21 party. In addition to New Orleans-style hors d’oeuvres and the “best priced drinks in town,” the party features door prizes and a raffle for King and Queen.