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For Dunedin, annual Mardi Gras celebration is a time to party

DUNEDIN

As anyone raised in Mobile, Ala., or New Orleans can tell you, the proper greeting on Fat Tuesday is "Happy Mardi Gras!" • And on Tuesday, Dunedin was getting happy. • It was a night of release from the doldrums of our economic situation, a raucous party before the sober season of Lent.

The revelers started quietly. They took in crafts along Main Street, sampled food from vendors with jambalaya and sparkling Spanish wine and danced to Cajun music at Pioneer Park.

Later, they begged for beads tossed from parade floats, brimmed over from the bars and listened to more music on Main Street.

A little after 5 p.m., it was still early on the west side of Main Street.

"What a wonderful world … ," Singer-songwriter Stick Martin sang from a small stage near Kelly's restaurant. Finishing the song, he said, "I'm going to give myself a round of applause for that."

The thickening crowd applauded a bit then and he said, "Thanks."

In the Chic A Boom Room, a few pirates were having libations before riding in the parade. Paul Dhaliwall of Clearwater's Ye Mystic Krewe of Santa Margarita clinked glasses with a female friend. He said the Mardi Gras parade is a family event.

"But we're pirates, so after like 9:30 we'll be back here in the Chic A Boom Room having some fun," he said. "Everybody needs a break from daily life during the week at least once a year."

Next door at Blur dance club, they were getting ready for a big night.

"I've been here five years and it gets crazy," said Todd De Cesare, head of security, known as "Tiny" to customers. "This is the hub of Dunedin for Mardi Gras."

About 5:45 p.m., it was slow at the wine booths on Main Street.

Michelle Mouser of Dunedin, 47, has volunteered for the first shift at the booth for four years and likes the work. "Toward the end, it's two for you, then one for me," she said.

Then farther down the street at Pioneer Park, the pot was starting to simmer. The Gumbo Boogie Band was playing, "Son of a gun, gonna have big fun on the bayou …," words from the song, Jambalaya (on the Bayou).

Janet Aldridge of Hot Springs Village, Ark., was dancing a Cajun jig up the sidewalk. Cajun music and dance do more than get her moving. "It's a way to show a love of life," she said.

Maybe like Norman Lessard of Clearwater, in full pirate regalia for the second year. He bent to talk with a small boy in a stroller, then gave the boy's mother a hug and returned to his wife, Pat Lessard.

"They won't leave me alone," he said.

"It's all in the spirit of fun," she said. "All for a good time."

Theresa Blackwell, raised in Mobile, Ala., can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

FAST FACTS

Mardi Gras history

Mardi Gras started in Dunedin with a few revelry-deprived merchants in 1992. But in North America, it goes back to at least 1703. Even New Orleans admits it: Mardi Gras started in Mobile, Ala., a city that bills its less-known but extensive jubilations as more "family friendly." In 1704, the small French colony of Mobile established a secret society similar to modern Mardi Gras Krewes. By 1711, they had parades as well as carnival balls. The French settled New Orleans in 1718 and the city's Fat Tuesday celebrations began in the 1730s.

Source: www.mobile.org and www.mardigrasneworleans.com.

For Dunedin, annual Mardi Gras celebration is a time to party 02/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 9:57pm]

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