February is notable for many mardi gras and carnival celebrations, with those in the United States, Canada, and France leading the parade.
New Orleans Celebration
Mardi Gras in the United States means New Orleans, where the 134th-annual event begins Jan. 26 and ends Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday), Feb. 12. The final day is a statewide holiday, with all businesses, schools and government offices closed.
Parades on Fat Tuesday are held during the day and into the evening, with the final parade starting at 6 p.m. They are followed by fancy balls (invitations required) at various hotels, halls and homes.
During the Mardi Gras celebration, about 60 parades pass through city streets. Viewing is free. Parades begin at 8:30 a.m. and continue to 6 p.m., with many going past that time.
Parade floats and costumes are beautiful, often outrageous. Thousands of spectators line the routes, with major parades passing along Canal Street. People on floats traditionally throw favors, trinkets and doubloons to the crowd as they roll by.
Spectators need stamina to stand and watch a parade, which can last three hours.
One of the more popular parades is by the Zulu Krewe (social organization), Mardi Gras’ oldest black group, on Mardi Gras Day. The Krewe of Venus, an all-female club, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, marches on Sunday, Feb. 10. In addition, there’s Endymion, the city’s largest parade, Feb. 9; Pete Fountain’s “Half-Fast Walking Club,” Feb. 12; Bacchus, Feb. 10, and Rex, Feb. 12.
For more information, contact the Greater New Orleans Tourist & Convention Commission, 1520 Sugar Bowl Drive, New Orleans 70112, (504) 566-5044.
Two popular carnivals are held annually in Canada.
“Snow, Sweet Snow” is the theme of the Quebec Carnival, Feb. 7-17, in Quebec City. The event is also known as “Bonhomme Carnival,” with its king a giant, talking snowman, called “Bonhomme,” who wears a red-stocking cap and red sash.
The world’s largest snow sculpture and carnival centerpiece, the Ice Castle, can be viewed just outside the historic Old City. Activities during the carnival include snow sliding, outdoor games and entertainment by clowns at Place de la Famille. Also, there will be national and international snow sculpture competitions between participants from 15 countries.
Traditional parades are held at night on Feb. 9 and 16, featuring a carnival queen, duchesses, clowns, marching bands and beautifully decorated floats.
Carnival parties and activities will be highlighted by a queen’s ball, a beach party, a make-up and hair-styling contest and a casino night.
For more information, contact the Quebec Government Office, Tourist Information, 700 S. Flower St., Suite 1520, Los Angeles 90017, (213) 689-4861.
The Banff Winter Festival in Banff, Alberta, Feb. 21-24 offers parades, dancing, entertainment and lots of sports. Highlights are a 30-mile cross-country ski race from Chateau Lake Louise to Bow River in Banff, a figure skating contest at the Banff Recreation Center and the Mountain Madness Relay Race from Mt. Norquay to Bow River. For more information, contact Alberta Tourism at (800) 661-8888.
Salute to Hollywood
The Galveston, Tex., mardi gras Feb. 1-12 will feature “A Salute to Hollywood.” A Momus Grand Night parade on Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Historic Strand District between downtown and the harbor highlights the mardi gras.
The parade features 18 floats, each depicting a Hollywood movie such as “King Kong,” “Batman,” “Ghostbusters,” “Ben Hur,” and “Rocky.” Also, the parade will have marching bands and entertainer Carol Channing as marshall.
The mardi gras will end with the “Krewe of Karankawa Fat Tuesday Masked Ball” on Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. at Van’s restaurant, 2021 Strand Ave. Cost is $10 per person in advance and $12 at the door.
For more information, contact the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, 2100 Seawall Blvd., Galveston 77550, (800) 351-4236.
The 94th-annual George Washington birthday party will be celebrated Feb. 15-24 in Laredo, Tex., drawing more than 300,000 participants from the United States and Mexico to the parades, dances, fireworks and music. One of the most important events is the Grand International Parade on Feb. 23 at 9: 30 a.m. starting at the Civic Center and continuing south on San Bernardo Avenue. Watching is free along the parade route, but seating is available in grandstands for $4 per person.
On Feb. 22, 5-11 p.m., and Feb. 23, 1-11 p.m., a Jalapeno Festival will be held across from the airport terminal. Eating contests, games, Mexican music and food are planned.
Other birthday party activities include two debutant balls, a carnival, a ‘50s sock hop, art work displays, musicals, fireworks and a 3.2-mile run.
For more information, contact the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Assn., P.O. Box 816, Laredo, Tex. 78042, (512) 722-0589.
Festival of Light
The Edison Festival of Light, Feb. 1-16, in Ft. Myers, Fla., will honor Thomas Alva Edison, who wintered in the Ft. Myers area. Festivities include tributes, ceremonies, arts, crafts and contests.
The festival ends on Feb. 16 with a “Parade of Lights” that begins at 7 p.m. and proceeds for 2 1/2 miles from Edwards Drive to the football stadium in downtown Ft. Meyers. About 200,000 people are expected line the route.
Also scheduled is an Edison birthday party on Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. at Exhibition Hall. Cost is $7 per person for entertainment and birthday cake.
For more information, contact Edison Festival of Light, 2210 Bay St., Ft. Myers, Fla. 33901, (813) 334-2999.
Nice begins its carnival period with a parade led by “The King of Madness” on Feb. 11, continuing with additional parades, dancing and fireworks through March 3. Costumed revelers join the parades that feature giant papier-mache heads, fresh-flower decorated floats, bright lights, bands and dancers.
Tickets for carnival seats cost from $30 to $45.
For more information, contact the Comite des Fetes, 5 Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice, France. Tel: 220.127.116.11.
In the United States, contact the French Government Tourist Office, 9454 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 303, Beverly Hills 90212, (213) 271-4721.
Chinese New Year
A Chinese new year celebration will be held Feb. 23-March 3 in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The celebration begins with an opening ceremony at noon on Feb. 23 at Union Square and ends with international boat races March 3. Highlight of the festival will be its Golden Dragon and New Year Parade at 6 p.m. on March 2 beginning at Market and Second Streets.
Other activities include Miss Chinatown USA pageant, Feb. 23; children’s kite festival, Feb. 24; Miss Chinatown coronation and ball, March 1; Miss Chinatown USA fashion show, March 2; “queen’s cup” volleyball tournament, Feb. 24; street carnival, daily Feb. 15 to March 3, and exhibitions at the Asian Art Museum, Chinese Culture Center and Chinese Historical Society and Museum.
For more information, contact the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, 730 Sacramento St., San Francisco 94108, (415) 982-3000.