Who needs New Orleans? Maybe it's the bay area's deep affection for Gasparilla beads, but we have no shortage of events celebrating Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday, which is next week.
Dunedin Mardi Gras
This big street party with "Big Mama's Jambalaya Jive" parade features colorful floats, local celebrities, beads and plenty of beer, wine and food for sale. Live entertainment by New Orleans headliner Cyril Neville and surf rockers the Vodkanauts. There also will be arts and crafts vendors selling their wares along Main Street. The music starts at 5 and the parade, with grand marshal Shelby Nelson, director of the Toronto Blue Jays Florida operations, starts at 7:30 p.m. Free. Main Street in Dunedin. (727) 647-8181. 5-11 p.m. Tuesday.
Mardi Gras in Ybor
For the second year, Bernini's and Green Iguana Ybor are throwing a huge Fat Tuesday party inside the restaurants and on the sidewalk cafe areas. The celebration includes a free Creole buffet, king cakes, a Dixieland band and a cash bar with Southern Comfort signature drinks in a special glass, $5 Hurricanes and $5 Rough Riders. And true to New Orleans style, the party will run until 3 a.m. Reservations suggested. Free. Bernini Restaurant, 1702 E Seventh Ave., Tampa. (813) 248-0099. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Mardi Gras Beach Midway
Hit the beach for a full weekend of family activities featuring more than 100 arts and craft vendors, food, beer garden, live entertainment and a kids zone. Flamboyant Mardi Gras style masks and costumes encouraged. Free. Alden Beach Resort, 5900 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. (727) 492-7621. Noon-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Mardi Gras Celebration
Come in costume for accordion-driven dance music by J.B.'s Zydeco Zoo. Admission includes a Cajun plate dinner with crawfish cornbread, roast pork, red beans and rice and jambalaya. Mardi Gras hats available for purchase. $15 advance, $18 at the gate (includes food). Cajun Cafe On the Bayou, 8101 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park. (727) 546-6732. Gate opens at 6 p.m., band plays from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday. If you buy tickets online at cajuncafeonthebayou.com you get a free whiskey bread pudding.
Mardi Gras Ball
A flamboyant "Big Easy" style ball with Cajun food, music, dancing and door prizes. Elegant Mardi Gras costumes and masks encouraged. Proceeds benefit numerous Kiwanis charities. $25. Gulfport Casino, 5500 Shore Blvd. S, Gulfport. (727) 647-1014. 7-11 p.m. Saturday.
Saints and Sinners Gala
The annual black-tie Saints and Sinners Mardi Gras Ball, "Moulin Rouge," will feature a gourmet buffet, top shelf bars, live entertainment by the Black Honkeys, gaming tables, live and silent auctions and a 50/50 raffle. $125. Conmy Center, 750 San Salvador Drive, Dunedin. (727) 738-6159. 6 p.m. Saturday.
Month of Mardi Gras Custom Car Show
The fourth-annual show features more than 60 custom and vintage autos from private collections. Food, beer and live music available. Benefits the Miracle League of Gulf Beaches. Free; $15-$20 car entry. Blue Parrot, 85 Corey Circle, St. Pete Beach. (727) 278-7846. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Mardi Gras Grand Opening Party
Rick Parsons has owned Ricky P's Po Boy Shop on Fourth Street for the past three years, and now he's opened a full service restaurant in a new space on Central Avenue. Mardi Gras weekend marks the spot's official grand opening. There will be drink and food specials, plus free beads and king cake. Friday, 7-10 p.m.: Shawn Brown will kick off the weekend with his groovy blues and R&B. Saturday, 8-11 p.m.: The Gumbo Boogie Band performs rock, blues and soul tunes. Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.: Kevin Wilder performs smooth jazz at a Sunday brunch. Tuesday, 6:30-10:30 p.m.: Motel Funk rocks soulful tunes. Free. Ricky P's , 1113 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 821-4016.