Mardis Gras Season Continues with Cajun Cookoff and Parade

By Whitney Cooper

Asheville Mardis Gras is hosting the city’s longest winter festival, again, this year, featuring “Saints vs. Sinners” as the 2016 theme (intentionally named as the event falls on Super Bowl Sunday).

Asheville Mardis Gras is a social aid and pleasure club, in addition to an arts and cultural group that seeks to, “promote creativity, frivolity and celebration, based on the traditions of Mardi Gras” from early January through Fat Tuesday (the last night before Ash Wednesday to celebrate before the Lenten season begins), which falls on Feb. 9 this year.

The group kicked off its winter festivities in early January with a costumed Twelfth Night party – the opening celebration that falls on the twelfth night after Christmas where the King and Queen of Mardis Gras are crowned to lead the Feb.7 parade in downtown Asheville. Thomas Cahill and Lynn Caroli Rapp wore the crowns for last year’s “And Now For Something Completely Different” themed celebration.

The next event to celebrate the season is the Annual Asheville Mardi Gras Cajun Cookoff, which has been postponed to Sunday, Jan. 31, from 2 – 7 p.m. at The Mill Room in downtown Asheville. The event will feature live music from zydeco-influenced band Bayou Diesel, silent auction, Cajun inspired food, and drink, in addition to a food drive benefiting Manna Food Bank. Tickets are available at $15 for general admission, and $5 for members of Asheville Mardis Gras.

The group is still accepting entries for the Cookoff at and will award prizes for best overall dish, second best overall dish, best vegetarian dish, and best amateur dish. The contest provides space for twenty local chef competitors to be vetted by attendee vote on the best Cajun creations.

Last year’s winners included chef Amy Fariss of Nine Mile (first place) chef Jonathan Santiago of Biltmore Village Inn (second place) and chefs Matt Grush and Chris Hall.

The festivities will culminate in the annual Asheville Mardis Gras parade on Bacchus Sunday, Feb. 7, in downtown Asheville followed by the annual Queen’s ball afterwards. The parade is a family-friendly, alcohol-free event that will showcase local artisans, costumes, and music, along with the traditional celebrations of Mardis Gras including feathers, beads, and candy.

“We had a lot of fun last year watching dancers, and looking at the costumes — they had all sorts of entertaining people on roller skates, crazy and elaborate costumes, and it was something fun to do on Sunday afternoon,” said Asheville resident, Amy Neshat.

The scheduled festivities begin with a Line-Up Party on Wall Street from 11 a.m. to 3:04 p.m., and the parade will begin at 3:05 p.m. along Wall Street, Battery Park Avenue, Haywood Street, and Page Avenue near the Grove Arcade.

Following the parade, attendees and participants can continue the fun at the costumed Mardi Gras Queen’s Ball in the Century Room & South Bar at Pack’s Tavern in downtown Asheville from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For more details on the festivities, or to learn more about the group, please visit

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