If you’ve ever been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, you get the hype. Oak trees line the streets of St. Charles and drip in purple, green and gold beads while the sounds of Carnival fill the air. Floats roll throughout the neighborhoods with high school marching bands keeping the rhythm in between people dancing in the streets without a care in the world. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and if you ever find yourself away from New Orleans during Carnival, you’ll feel the void in your soul.
Luckily, for all of us in DC who can’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year, Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery Chef and Owner David Guas, along with his co-chairs Spike and Micheline Mendelsohn and Gina Chersevani, are bringing the Party Gras to us at Dock 5 at Union Market so we can laissez les bon temps rouler like locals!
On Tap got the inside scoop on the Mardi Gras Extravaganza from David Guas.
On Tap: Mardi Gras is a huge tradition in New Orleans that spans the course of a couple weeks. Why are we bringing Carnival to Union Market?
David Guas: As a native New Orleanian and living in Washington, DC for 18 years, I have never experienced one large Mardi Gras event for people to attend that was open to the public. I have put on an annual Mardi Gras party for years at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, and I am looking forward to this expansion of its size and spirit with my co-chairs Spike and Micheline Mendelsohn, and mixtress Gina Chersevani!
OT: Can you tell me a bit about the St. Bernard Project and DC Central Kitchen, both of which are benefiting from the Mardi Gras Extravaganza?
DG: DC Central Kitchen is an organization that fights hunger differently. It is a nonprofit developer of innovative social ventures that break the cycle of hunger and poverty. The New Orleans-based St. Bernard Project’s mission is to shrink the time between disaster and full recovery by ensuring that impacted citizens and communities recover in a prompt, efficient and predictable manner. Since [the St. Bernard Project] was founded in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina, in St. Bernard Parish, [it] has directly rebuilt homes for more than 1,170 families with the help of 150,000 volunteers across seven states.
OT: What kinds of food and drinks can attendees expect to indulge in at the event? Which bite and booze should we absolutely not miss?
DG: Guests can expect Southern-style party food and Mardi Gras-inspired bites – from mini-king cake doughnuts to authentic po’ boys. We have some of the best restaurants in DC participating. Plus, we’ll have DC’s top mixologists serving up a different twist on the hurricane, a quintessential and tropical New Orleans punch, and competing to serve the best cocktail! The “Krewe” of judges, Derek Brown, Todd Thrasher, Fritz Hahn and Wendy Rieger, will select first, second and third place awards for the best-crafted cocktail. Cotton & Reed will be shaking up milk punch with their dry spice rum from their drink station. DC Brau and Abita beer will be flowing from our complimentary souvenir Mardi Gras Extravaganza party cups!
OT: In what ways is Dock 5 being transformed to reflect the essence of Mardi Gras?
DG: Guests will instantly be transported into the streets of the French Quarter with the sound of live music from Brass Connection Band, DuPont Brass Band and Laissez-Foure, a swinging jazz quartet. Not to mention that the space will be dripping in purple, green and gold.
OT: What are you most looking forward to about the MGE?
DG: The best part about the Mardi Gras Extravaganza will be bringing the spirit of New Orleans to the DC community! It will be an evening of boozy sips, cold brews and delicious bites supporting two very deserving organizations! We just ask that you bring your friends, your family and your Mardi Gras spirit.
OT: What kind of costumes are you expecting to see for the costume contest? Give us the inside scoop on how to win!
DG: The crazier, the better! Winners get major bragging rights and a bejeweled trophy that rivals the coveted coconuts thrown from the famed NOLA Zulu Parade.
OT: What’s one thing that sets New Orleans apart from the rest of the country that you’re hoping translates throughout the event?
DG: Growing up in New Orleans, Mardi Gras festivities were just a way of life. It wasn’t until I ventured out of the Crescent City that I realized the whole world doesn’t take off from work, dress in funny outfits, or treasure coconuts and strings of beads. To those of us from New Orleans, it’s the simple things like a Mardi Gras parade or a king cake from McKenzie’s that really make life so special, and we love to share with those of y’all taking an interest in our local customs. The greatest thing, for me, is that we can bring the tradition back to Washington, DC.
OT: Lastly, what are you hoping DC locals take away from attending the MGE?
DG: All this indulgence and revelry comes with a mission. The Mardi Gras Extravaganza is more than an opportunity to celebrate Mardi Gras. The blowout event promotes the culture and traditions of New Orleans while raising funds for two nonprofits.
If you’re going to party, party with a purpose. That’s what I always say. And the Mardi Gras Extravaganza at Union Market is the perfect way to get your party on and give back to the community. The event will start rolling at 5 p.m. and carry on until 10 p.m. Tickets are $65, which includes all-you-can-eat-and-drink, live performances from brass bands, a costume contest and more. So don your best colorful and crazy attire and get out to Dock 5 at Union Market tomorrow on Mardi Gras Day! For more information, visit www.mardigrasextravaganza.com.
Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; 877-775-3462; www.unionmarketdc.com