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Area revs up for festival fun

NATCHEZ — Beads, masks and the colors of Mardi Gras quickly replace Christmas decorations in Natchez, and despite a late Mardi Gras this year, efforts to make the season great have already begun.

Natchez Mardi Gras krewes are preparing for annual festivities, beginning next weekend through Fat Tuesday, March 8.

Several local krewes draw from their own histories to express themselves.

The Krewe of Phoenix, in its 29th year, will celebrate the “Magic of Motown.” The krewe will host its call out ball on Jan. 29 at City Auditorium. The Duke and Duchesses costume party will be Feb. 5 at the Natchez Convention Center, and the king and queen’s ball will be Feb. 19 at the Carriage House. The parade will be at 5 p.m. March 4. Finally the grand ball will be March 5 at the Natchez Convention Center.

The Krewe of Phoenix king is Brad LeMay and the queen is Dee Newman.

The Krewe of Phoenix — named for its history — was the first krewe to jumpstart a Natchez Mardi Gras revival after a downtown fire ended the celebrations in the 1930s.

“This year we have an extremely diverse group as far as ages go,” call out ball chairman Ryan Richardson said. “It’s funny, because the krewe keeps revamping itself.”

The krewe contributes scholarships to local students.

The Krewe of Phoenix parade will lineup on Broadway and turn left at Rosalie. When it reaches Canal Street, the parade will proceed to Main Street. The route will continue up Main Street to Commerce, and left over to Union Street by Memorial Park over to Franklin and ending back on Broadway.

Krewe of Mer will celebrate with the theme “A Moment In Time” this year. This inviation-only ball will be at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29 at the Natchez Convention Center.

The Krewe of Mer king is Eddie Hargrave, Jr. The queen is Doris Hargrave.

“The Krewe of Mer is a social club and we do a ball every year,” captain Belle Varner said. “This is a big social event for us, but we also give back to the community with scholarships.”

The Krewe of Alpheus will celebrate its 20th year with a parade and an after party, instead of the usual ball.

“We’re cutting back expenses,” President Stan Owens said. “Membership has been down, and this year jumped, but we are still cutting back expenses. We are doing things a lot less formally; going back to basics.”

So it’s appropriate that this year’s theme is “Been There, Done That.”

“When the krewe first started 20 years ago it was low key, and what I call ‘blue collar.’ We are going back to basics, so ‘been there, done that’ is this year’s theme.”

The krewe makes donations to Pleasant Acre Day School, a learning center and a home for special needs adults.

Line up for the parade will be on Broadway, proceed up Canal Street to Main Street and then to Rankin where the parade will cut to Franklin and end up back on Broadway.

Immediately following the Krewe of Alpheus parade will be an after-party at Doc Big Love’s at 408 Main St.

“We will show off our royalty and announce royalty at the after-party,” Owens said.

The after party is open to the public. The king and queen will be announced at a later date.

Krewe of Mer will celebrate with the theme “A Moment In Time” this year. This inviation-only ball will be at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29 at the Natchez Convention Center.

The Krewe of Mer king is Eddie Hargrave, Jr. The queen is Doris Hargrave.

“The Krewe of Mer is a social club and we do a ball every year,” captain Belle Varner said. “This is a big social event for us, but we also give back to the community with scholarships.”

The Krewe of Natchez Indians will observe Mardi Gras with an invitation-only ball at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5 at the Natchez Convention Center.

This will be the fifth annual ball for the krewe. This year’s big chief is Craig L. Bilbrew. The majestic queen is Delphine Brent.

The Krewe of Natchez Indians donates funds to Relay for Life, the main volunteer-driven cancer fundraising event of the American Cancer Society.

“Our theme will be kept secret until the night of the ball,” krewe president Robert McNeely said.

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