While most of us associate the celebrations that are scheduled around Mardi Gras with drinking, dancing, and parties, some may not be aware the origins of the events are directly tied to religious obligations. Mardi Gras is French and means “fat Tuesday” in English. It is traditionally the night of wild excess that precedes Ash Wednesday and the liturgical season of Lent.

Ask anyone what city they most closely associate with the term “Mardi Gras” and the response will probably not be “Fayetteville, Arkansas!” But folks in the northwest corner of the state know that if you’re unable to make a pilgrimage to New Orleans, the celebrations in Fayetteville are the next best thing. In fact, some might say they’re the first best thing.

Fayetteville is home to a number of “Krewes”, organizations that are the heart and soul of parades and festivities central to Mardi Gras and other Carnival-related events. Individuals pay membership fees to their Krewe, and do the work of planning and building floats and creating their own costumes. Many Krewes support local charities with a portion of their membership fees. If you’re interested in creating a Krewe of your own, you can contact Fayetteville Mardi Gras for more information.

Fayetteville Mardi Gras will celebrate twenty-six years of merriment and mayhem this year, and their schedule describes a series of events planned to appeal to all ages.

Saturday, February 25th (2:00 p.m. start): Take the kids to the family-friendly Fat Saturday Parade of Fools! There are plenty of ideal spots to view the parade as it winds its way from the Fayetteville Square, down Block and Dickson Streets. Always a Northwest Arkansas favorite, the parade is a colorful mix of beads, costumed revelers, performance groups, and festive floats. This year the parade will resume its tradition of ending in the parking lot at West and Dickson, as in years past, and everyone is welcome to continue the fun there (hint: more beads!)

Tuesday, February 28th: The merriment continues on Fat Tuesday with a brand new “FAT TUESDAY DOWNTOWN” event. Merrymakers are invited to visit their favorite participating businesses in the downtown/entertainment district. Check for a full list and map of all participating businesses on the event website, along with information on any events and specials those businesses will be offering. The fun will kick off at JJ’s Grill on Dickson with live music, a royal court, food and drink specials, and coronation of the Royalty at 8:00 pm.

As they say in New Orleans, and Fayetteville, Laissez les bons temps rouler!