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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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Mardi Gras season officially kicks off with king cake, revelry

Mardi Gras season officially kicks off with king cake, revelry

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As the rest of America winds down from the parties, overeating and merriment of Christmas and New Year's, New Orleans keeps the party going. Mardi Gras season officially kicked off Sunday.

Jan. 6 is often referred to as Epiphany, Twelfth Night or Three Kings' Day and commemorates the day the Bible says the three wise men reached the baby Jesus. For weeks, the city is taken over by elaborate parades and people stuffing their faces with sugary king cake. The party culminates on Fat Tuesday, which this year falls on March 5.

Probably the biggest single sign that Mardi Gras season is upon us is king cake. The ring-shaped cakes often decorated in the Mardi Gras tri-color of purple, green and gold can be found at bakeries, restaurants, office parties and homes across town during the season. Cakes can be plain or filled with fruit and cream or laced with cinnamon. Bakers go all out.

For example, Alton Osborn, who owns Bywater Bakery with his wife Chaya Conrad, is this year introducing three savory king cakes — crawfish, boudin and spinach/artichoke — to accompany their nine sweet king cakes. King cakes account for a "huge part of our business," Osborn said. He's got high hopes for the new savory king cakes: "It's going to blow some minds."

Traditionally the bulk of the area’s parades happen around the two weekends ahead of Fat Tuesday.

Towns and cities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama also host parades and events during Mardi Gras season. Last year, Alabama's state tourism agency purchased 10 billboards around New Orleans and southern Mississippi to promote Carnival in Mobile. Rather than mentioning Mobile specifically, the signs told drivers how many miles they are from "America's original Mardi Gras." And they didn't mean New Orleans. New Orleans officials took the ribbing in stride with then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu saying: "There's only one great Mardi Gras in the world." And he didn't mean Mobile.

And in southern Louisiana's Cajun country, costumed participants ride on horseback or run through towns stopping at houses to collect ingredients for gumbo in a tradition called Courir de Mardi Gras.


Follow Santana on Twitter @ruskygal.