Mardi Gras comes to the Key Peninsula


Jessica Takehara

New Orleans may be thousands of miles away and on a different coastline, but the Key Peninsula will have a chance to experience a slice of delta life on Feb. 8th. The KP Civic Center will host the first Mardi Gras Music Festival with diner, food, music, a parade, prizes and the crowning of a local king and queen.

Organizers Merri Sutton and Claudia Loy put together the event to celebrate in the traditional style of Mardi Gras, which means Fat Tuesday in French.

Tickets are $30 per person in advance after Jan. 1, and $35 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Sunnycrest Nursery, Blend Wine Shop and ticket outlets in Gig Harbor. Reentry is also possible with an event stamp.

The festival kicks off with a mix of Cajun, zydeco, and blues music by Seattle-based group File` Gumbo at 5 p.m. The Kim Archer Band, another local group, will take the stage next to add some old-school soul to the atmosphere.

Merrilee Rush and the band Gabriel headline the occasion with an eclectic combination of rock, blues and jazz. Rush, a Seattle North End native, began her music career in 1960. She recorded the Grammy nominated “Angle of the Morning” in 1968, released several albums and continues to perform across the country in rock and roll nostalgia shows.

The band Gabriel, initially from Tacoma, formed in 1970 and played original rock music during a time of mostly “cover bands.” After experiencing the ups and downs of the music industry, the group broke up 1980. By 1991, the band Gabriel reformed with renewed enthusiasm and ongoing local performances.

Local restaurateur, Greg Murphy, will provide New Orleans style barbecue as part of the dinner options. Murphy’s business, Murph’s BBQ and Catering, is located in the concession stand at Volunteer Park. He also has ties to the bayou area, and according to organizer Loy he “knows how to put on a spread in the tradition of Mardi Gras.”

Beyond music and food, beer and wine from Blend Wine Shop will help the festival keep moving until midnight. Sutton and Loy are also planning to include signature cocktails and frozen drinks that follow the New Orleans theme.

Partygoers are encouraged to wear bold, bright colors with lots of sparkle. Beads will be provided, but masks must be brought. There will be prizes involved and the two most original costumes receiving votes through applause will be crowned King and Queen of the night. They will have the honor of leading the grand parade too, organizers said.

Since this is the first year, Loy’s goal is to turn this into an annual event that helps people “beat the winter blues by coming and listening to the blues,” she said.

Proceeds from the event support the Key Peninsula Civic Center. Volunteers are needed to make sure the festival is fun and successful she said. VIP packages will be available; check with the civic center for prices and specifics.

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