St. Louis Mardi Gras is the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the country. all photos courtesy of Mardi Gras

8 St. Louis Mardi Gras events to hit this year

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Mardi Gras season is upon us once more, and there are an abundance of events and activities to “laissez les bons temps rouler” (let the good times roll).

Things kick off on Saturday, Feb. 1, with the Bacchanalian Ball: Hollywood Nights, slated for 7 to 11 p.m. at the Bud Light Party Centre in Soulard Market Park. The all-inclusive ball includes specialty cocktails by STL Barkeep, Bud Light Seltzer and beers from Golden Road Brewing, small bites from Salt + Smoke, Bogart’s Smokehouse and Sugarfire Smoke House, plus music from DJ Mahf and Breakdown Shakedown.

“Experience the glitz and glamour of Hollywood at the second annual Bacchanalian Ball,” said Mack Bradley, president of the Mardi Gras Foundation. “This over-the-top gala event will transform you into an A-List celebrity for the night. Mix and mingle, don your most glam outfit and strut your stuff on the red carpet.”

 Next up is the Cajun Cookoff from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8, also at the Bud Light Party Centre in Soulard Market Park. Tickets include an authentic Cajun lunch from Sugarfire Smoke House, complimentary beverages and boot-stomping tunes from the Zydeco Crawdaddies.

 “Learn the secrets of Cajun cooking at our celebrity chef demos taking place all day long,” Bradley said. “This year we are honored to have the BBQ Ninja Craig Verhage, as well as Mike Johnson and Christina Fitzgerald, who will deliver spicy-hot tips as they hand out samples of their delicious creations. Also, don't miss highly talented amateur chefs from across the area face off as they prepare their best dishes to be sampled by a panel of hungry and highly discerning judges.”

After eating and drinking to your heart’s content for two weekends in a row, the Missouri Lottery 5k Run For Your Beads will help you burn off some of the deliciousness you’ve consumed to make room for more. The race begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the corner of Eighth Street and Lafayette Avenue in Soulard.

“This is the only race that is as fun-filled, colorful and slightly wacky as Mardi Gras,” Bradley said. “Enjoy all the historic scenery of Soulard with mid-race pit stops stocked with beer and hurricanes for legally aged runners. Dress in your best Mardi Gras garb because, in addition to prizes for the winners of each division, we’ll honor the runner with the best costume.”

After the race, stick around for Taste of Soulard from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, and Sunday, Feb. 16. Tickets include one drink voucher and six food vouchers that can be redeemed at any participating establishment. 

“After running so hard, you’ll have earned the chance to chow down on some tasty Cajun cuisine,” Bradley said. “This self-guided tasting and pub crawl allows you to choose your own adventure through the many Cajun flavors you’ll find throughout Soulard. On Saturday, the world-famous Soulard Trolley Tramps will shuttle merrymakers to restaurants throughout the neighborhood.”

Gather your fuzzy friends for the Purina Pet Parade, the world’s largest costumed pet parade, which kicks off at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 16, at the corner of 12th Street and Allen Avenue.

“The best dressed pets will be selected as members of the Court of the Mystical Krewe of Barkus and will be invited to the Coronation Pageant at Soulard Market Park where the King and Queen of Barkus will be crowned,” Bradley said.

And don’t miss the Tito’s Wiener Dog Derby, which starts with opening ceremonies at 1:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16, in Soulard Market Park.

“Participants square off to determine the dashingest dachshund in all of the land,” Bradley said. “In a series of six-dog elimination heats, competitors race down a 30-foot track with the winning wiener moving on to the next round until a champion is crowned. New this year, there will be a Tito's Wiener Dog Derby hat contest (for humans), so come dressed for the derby.”

Don your fanciest weekend garb for the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball, billed by some as the social event of the season, from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday, Feb. 21, at the Rotunda in St. Louis City Hall. 

“This must-attend gala combines the elegance of the setting with the striking visuals of Mardi Gras, along with fine cuisine, cocktails, dancing and entertainment ranging from traditional to spectacular,” Bradley said. “Young professionals can take advantage of the star power of the ball to network with area leaders from a variety of fields.”

And finally, the day we’ve all been waiting for, the Bud Light Grand Parade, which cruises through downtown and Soulard beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22. 

“This event is the crown jewel of the Soulard Mardi Gras season and is the biggest parade outside of the Big Easy,” Bradley said. “Nearly 100 floats will bring the Blues theme (music, hockey, skies, seas and more) to life and throw over 10,000,000 strands of beads to the throngs of revelers lining the parade route.” 

The Bud Light Party Tent, open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 22, is the place to be when you’re not at the parade. Tickets include an open bar, lunch buffet by Joanie’s To Go, private restrooms and unlimited re-entry so you can wander the streets of Soulard with the thousands of other party people.

“You shouldn’t have to choose between being directly on the parade route, warming up from the cold, a dance floor with body-moving beats, a restroom without a line and being able to grab a drink whenever you need another,” Bradley said. “The new themes for Bacchanalian Ball and the Grand Parade will inject new energy into 2020, while overall the full calendar of events gives people opportunities to create their own unique Mardi Gras experiences.”

For hockey fans, there’s a Blues Alumni Experience from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Lafayette Lofts at Seventh Street and Ann Avenue. Tickets include an open bar, NSFW NSFW story time with Blues legends, a lunch buffet by Joanie’s To Go, an air bubble hockey tournament, plus a front row view of the parade.

“If you ever wanted to rub elbows with Blues legends at St. Louis’ biggest party, then we have exactly what you’re looking for,” Bradley said. “At the Blues Alumni Party Tent, your all-inclusive pass lets you hang out with some of the best to ever don the Blue Note in a climate-controlled tent right on the parade route.” 

Keep an eye out for the “Eggsperience” during the Grand Parade as 2,500 plastic eggs filled with prizes will be thrown from the floats. Each egg will be filled with items (or vouchers for) like signed Blues jerseys, Blues tickets, Bud Light Party tent tickets, Blues Alumni Experience tickets, gift cards, free drinks and more.

There is also a new heated sample tent at Mardi Gras in the parking lot at 12th Street and Allen
Avenue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It’s open to the public but you have a doubloon to receive complimentary samples of Bud Light Seltzer, Fireball and Southern Comfort. 

Lauren Healey is associate editor at Sauce Magazine.