There’s more than one major holiday happening in the next week: Before Valentine’s Day, plenty of locals will be celebrating Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday and Shrove Tuesday.
Those in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast “laissez les bons temps rouler” (translation: “let the good times roll”) with elaborate parades, grand masquerade balls, countless strings of beads (most often thrown to women who bare their breasts) and colorful king cakes.
Local celebrations of the holiday — a relative of Brazil’s Carnival that originated as a way to use up rich foods and have some fun before the start of Lent — are on a much smaller scale, but if you look, you can find them.
And at least one, the Gumbo Collective’s first Mardi Gras party, will include king cake, a super-sugary purple-green-and-gold-frosted confection in which a plastic baby hides, ready to convey good luck (and the responsibility for providing next year’s cake) on its finder.
“There’s somebody in the group who’s experimenting, testing out recipes to try to get the dough right,” said Steve Henley of Olympia, the collective’s founder and chief chef. “We bought the colored glitter and sugar the other day.”
Also on the menu are beignets (the New Orleans version of a doughnut, best served with chicory coffee) and, of course, several kinds of gumbo. The Saturday night party will go above and beyond a typical Gumbo Collective gathering with music by Heat Shimmer, Le Grotto, Erina and Hokumville.
“It will be a little bit of a fais do-do,” Henley said. (Translation: a Cajun dance party, though in this case without the traditional fiddle tunes.)
He’s a Mardi Gras stalwart who grew up celebrating in Tallahassee, Florida, and has French Canadian ancestry, which he figures makes him “a sort of Cajun cousin.”
In recent years, Olympia’s Artesian Rumble Arkestra has played in the streets to celebrate the night, traveling from bar to bar, but the group is skipping the tradition this year due to numerous injuries and illnesses among the brass band’s musicians.
The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd hosts a pre-Lenten celebration each year.
“Some years, we do pancakes, and some years, we do jambalaya,” said Allison Pate, who directs religious education at Good Shepherd.
This year, pancakes are on the menu, along with pancake races and a photo booth.
But the celebration, a fundraiser for church youth who will be attending a Lutheran summer gathering in Houston, will have a touch of New Orleans: There will be music by the South Puget Sound Dixieland Jazz Band.
The church encourages believers to either give up something for Lent or add a practice such as writing a daily thank you letter, Pate said.
“It’s kind of up to the individual,” she added.
You don’t have to be a believer to celebrate.
“Mardi Gras a good opportunity to celebrate and get ready for spring,” Henley said. “People don’t strongly connect it to Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season anymore.”
Mardi Gras happenings
Mardi Gras Prefunk Party: 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Northwest Beerwerks, 420 Steele St. NE, Olympia. No cover. 360-350-2051, northwestbeerwerks.com.
Gumbo Collective Mardi Gras Party: 7 p.m.-midnight Saturday, McLane Grange, 931 Delphi Road SW, Olympia. By donation. RSVP at facebook.com/events/164069500907159/. Get more information on joining the collective at facebook.com/groups/216138288923841.
Masquerade Party: 7 p.m.-midnight Saturday, Tipsy 514, 514 Capitol Way S, Olympia. No cover. 360-915-7181, facebook.com/Tipsy514/.
Fat Tuesday Celebration: 2 p.m.-midnight Tuesday, Tipsy 514, 514 Capitol Way S, Olympia. No cover. 360-915-7181, facebook.com/Tipsy514/.
Fat Tuesday with Andy and the Krew, featuring trumpeter Andy Omdahl: 7-10 p.m. Tuesday, Fish Tale Brew Pub, 515 Jefferson St. SE, Olympia. 360-943-3650, fishbrewing.com/fish-tale-brewpub
Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper: 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 1601 North St., Olympia. $5 donation encouraged. 360-357-3554, gsolympia.org.
Mardi Gras/Valentine’s Dance presented by OlyDance: 7-10 p.m. Tuesday, Eagles Hall Ballroom, 805 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia. $7-$10. tuesdayswing.com, or e-mail email@example.com