Mardi Gras: When masks are a legal requirement

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Just think of it as following the letter of the law.

When you think of Mardi Gras, which this year is Feb. 9, you think of masks. After all, it is the tradition.

But there is a reason why, according to the official website of New Orleans’s Mardi Gras celebrations, mardigrasneworleans.com.

The website explains: “In the beginning, masks worn during Mardi Gras allowed wearers to escape society and class constraints. When wearing a mask, carnival goers were free to be whomever they wanted to be, and mingle with whatever class they desired to mingle with.”

The website explained, in fact, when it comes to the New Orleans celebrations, “float riders are required to wear masks by law.”

So, this Mardi Gras in Connecticut, slip on that mask and know in good conscience, you have the law on your side.

If you’re looking for your Mardi Gras masks, you can try to make your own. Find a blank mask, buy a glue gun, and stock up on glitter, feathers, and rhinestones at Bristol’s Hobby Lobby or Plainville’s A.C. Moore. You can also pick a readymade one if you’re not feeling crafty.

Or you can forego the commercial stores and support a local nonprofit. The New England Carousel Museum has a pretty extensive collection of masks for sale in its gift shop at 95 Riverside Ave., Bristol.

The masks will come in handy for the museum’s upcoming Mardi Gras party on Friday, Feb. 5.

The annual event, which this year marks the 25th anniversary of the museum, is a more genteel and sophisticated affair than some of the rambunctious celebrations in New Orleans. Last year’s event included a tasty dinner wine tastings, and fine conversations with guests and local dignitaries.

This year, the wine tasting at the annual event has shifted to a bourbon tasting. The change in sipping reflects bourbon’s (and whiskey’s) sudden rise in popularity.

Fortune magazine reported in 2014, “According to Euromonitor, domestic whiskey sales have soared by 40 percent in the past five years … In 2002, American distillers exported just $376 million in whiskey; by 2013 that number had almost tripled, to $1 billion, according to… the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.”

Don’t like bourbon, this year’s Mardi Gras at the Carousel Museum also offers the opportunity bring your own beverage to imbibe.

The evening at the Carousel Museum also includes music, dancing and “beads and doubloons.”

And the museum says, costumes— and masks— are “strongly encouraged.”

The carousel museum’s Mardi Gras 2016 will be held Friday, Feb. 5 from 7:30 p.m. to midnight. The cost is $30 per person.

For tickets, call (860)585-5411.

If the Carousel Museum’s Mardi Gras celebration wasn’t enough, and you recovered from Fat Tuesday on Feb. 9, the following Friday—Feb. 12— the New Britain Museum of American Art is holding a Mardi Gras celebration as part of its monthly Museum After Dark.

At the event, guests can explore the galleries of the regional museum, dance to local DJs or River City Slim and the Zydeco Hogs, and munch on food from The Cheese Truck and Hardcore Sweet Cupcakes.

Admission is $20 for museum members, and $25 for non-members. Admission gives the guests an opportunity to explore the galleries and special exhibits, as well as enjoy the music, dancing, and beer and wine.

For more information, contact Sarah Rohlfing at rohlfings@nbmaa.org or (860) 229-0257, ext. 247.

Although it’s not billed as such, the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury has a celebration worthy of Mardi Gras on Thursday, Feb. 11.

The museum at 144 West Main St., Waterbury is holding its Febtoberfest Craft Beer Festival

From 6 to 9 p.m., the Mattatuck Museum in partnership with The Good Life Wine & Spirits, is providing a variety of regionally brewed beers, food, music, and offering up a touch of regional history.

Febtoberfest will be held Feb.11 from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $35 in advance

For more information, call(203) 753-0381 x130  or email: informationdesk@mattatuckmuseum.org

Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com

PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN

Models wear some Mardi Gras appropriate masks around the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol. The models are Martha Boltromiejuk of Plainville and Sami Anderson of Wolcott.