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Work hard, play hard: Mardi Gras Columbia Festival returns for ninth year

Leashed, well-behaved dogs are welcome in the parade and at the festival.
Leashed, well-behaved dogs are welcome in the parade and at the festival. Submitted

Anything that describes itself as “goofy and glorious” has to be worth checking out.

The ninth annual Mardi Gras Columbia Festival and parade will be held March 2 at City Roots Farm. Hosted by the local nonprofit Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya, the family-friendly event will kick off with the customary “funky” neighborhood Mardi Gras parade, followed by a music festival with more than 20 live bands.

Event organizers, the same ones who say the parade is “goofy and glorious” and “funky” describe the festival as a “super fun day, very relaxed, with a family-friendly, let-it-all-hang-out vibe.”

“As a hard-working, get-things-done community, it’s so important to play almost as hard as we work,” said Cindi Boiter, Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya kaptain and founder and executive director of The Jasper Project. “That’s why it’s so gratifying to see some of the most accomplished and respected members of our community dressed in their purple, green, and gold, beaded and grinning, and letting their hair down year after year at Mardi Gras Columbia.”

Costumes are welcomed at the parade and festival, but are not required. Guests are encouraged to come as they are and gather with friends and family to celebrate as a community on the Saturday before the Mardi Gras holiday.

The only real requirement? Have fun.

“The day starts with a parade that begins at City Roots and rolls for one hour through Rosewood with funky floats, exotic masks, marching bands, eclectic beads and a whole lotta love,” said Jeff Lawler, Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya member. “Many local community and business leaders spearhead this festival, in the wacky name of Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya, for a fun-filled day of unity, music, local and Louisiana brews, good ol’ cajun food and maybe even a little king cake.”

And the parade? Sure, you can watch it. You may even have some beads tossed your way (remember, this is a family event).

Or, you can be in the parade — no registration required to participate. It is free to walk, bike or roll in the parade. Just show up for lineup at 10 a.m. in front of City Roots.

Some of the good memories aren’t so wacky, but are unforgettable all the same.

“Hands down, my favorite memories of Mardi Gras come from the first two years,” said Kristian Niemi, Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya kaptain and owner of Bourbon and Black Rooster restaurants. “In the first year, 2011, it was the tears of joy when we honored Keith and Robin Willoughby of Wil-Moore Farms, who had just lost their baby chicken barn to a fire — which was the whole reason tthe festival was founded, to raise funds to replace their barn.

“My second is from 2012 when our attendance jumped from 350 the first year, to over 3,000 the second.”

Jeff Lawler, Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya calls the Rosewood festival a “one-of-a-kind” event.

“This experience brings together all walks of life, including our furry little friends, and it guides the pulse of our creative and talented community,” he said. “The day starts with a parade that begins at City Roots and rolls for one hour through Rosewood with funky floats, exotic masks, marching bands, eclectic beads and a whole lotta love. Many local community and business leaders spearhead this festival, in the wacky name of Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya, for a fun-filled day of unity, music, local and Louisiana brews, good ol’ cajun food and maybe even a little king cake.”

Come for the parade, stay for the music

More than 20 local bands will perform on four different stages.

“Music is a critical part of any exuberant festivity, so the local bands who march with us in the parade are perennially my favorite,” said Anna Redwine, Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya kaptain, director of communications at the USC Honors College and professional visual artist. “They keep the energy up throughout the route, exciting the crowds and keeping us all dancing. This year, we’re very excited that the beloved 282nd Army Band from Fort Jackson will again be rolling in the parade. Their fun, light-hearted covers of pop songs from across the decades will warm us up for a full day of boogieing.”

The Jasper Project will present bawdy poetry from some of the area’s most illustrious bards. But parents needn’t worry; these poems and their humor are designed to go right over the heads of little ones.

“Seeing this event and fun-loving, heart-generous Columbians gather year after year and grow in diversity and number tells me that my family and I made the right decision in making Columbia our forever home,” Boiter said.

King and Queen

Each year The Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya appoints a King and Queen of Mardi Gras Columbia. This year it’s long-time Krewe member and kaptain Paul Hinson and his wife, long-time Krewe member Tara Hinson. They will lead the entire parade, riding on the Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya’s float, which looks like a giant, frosted white cake with green, yellow and purple accents.

What’s your favorite Mardi Gras Columbia parade memory?

“One of my favorite memories of Mardi Gras is in the first year, 2011, when Joe Fern (now one of the leaders of the Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya) and his young daughters collected flower petals from all over the neighborhood, and they threw them to us as the parade started rolling. We felt like Romans returning victorious in some other millennium.”

“Another year, the parade took a wrong turn, and we accidentally crossed over Rosewood into Shandon. We ended up marching a much, much longer distance than expected.”

Tom Hall, Krewe de Columbia-Ya-Ya kaptain, filmmaker and Plowboys bandleader

“I’m a big fan of when, before my time as a Krewe member, the parade route ‘accidentally’ spilled into Shandon and the Cock N’Bull had laid out a round of free beers for everyone in the parade to enjoy on the premises before marching on.”

Oliver Hartner, Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya kaptain and outdoor lifestyle journalist

“The owners of the Columbia Marionette Theater have a dragon that requires seven people to control. They have have taken it through the parade in past years, and our fingers are crossed that they’ll have it out again this year.”

“I once saw a kid collect so many beads that they weighed him down and he fell over. And generally, there are lots of amazing costumes, bands, and Ya-Ya-edness.”

Aaron Vannucci, Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya member and USC assistant professor

“My favorite experience was when a ‘Krewe’ of Ya-Ya ladies were riding in a front loader tractor, lifted high above the parade, and Krewe kaptain Oliver Hartner was riding Tom Hall’s tractor waving the all-hailed Mardi Gras flag. That day we let the Ya-Ya roll!”

Jeff Lawler, Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya member and realtor

“Dogs. In. Costume. That’s my favorite part every year.”

Paul Hinson, Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya kaptain and 2019 King of Mardi Gras Columbia

If you go

When: Saturday, March 2

Where: City Roots Farm, 1005 Airport Blvd.

When: Parade begins at 11 a.m.; the festival is from noon-6 p.m.

Cost: $5 admission (kids under 12 free). mardigrascolumbia2019.eventbrite.com/

Notable:

  • The parade typically lasts just over an hour and is approximately 1.85 miles long
  • Featured parade participants will be Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya members, other Krewes, friends, neighbors, dogs, cyclists and more, led by the new reigning King and Queen of Mardi Gras, longtime Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya members Paul and Tara Hinson.
  • Bands include Mustache Brothers; Black Iron Gathering; Space Coke; Dem Dare Cats; Todd Mathis’ Last Friends; Buckdancer; The Plowboys; Whiskey Tango Revue; George Fetner & the Strays; Candy Coffins; Pharoahs in Space; Turbo Gatto; Brandy & the Butcher; Duncan Sims & the Accused; 48 Fables; Stillhouse; Les Merry Chevaliers; Don Merckle & the Blacksmiths; Grand Republic; Poor Decisions; Devils in Disguise; and Big Sky Revival.
  • Leashed, well-behaved dogs are welcome in the parade and at the festival. No dogs are allowed in City Roots’ greenhouses or kitchen facilities.
  • The festival will sell cold beverages (Louisiana-based Abita Brewing Company), and a variety of cuisines will be available for purchase from local food trucks and vendors.

Details: www.mardigrascolumbia.com

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