On the Saturday before Fat Tuesday – or Mardi Gras – thousands fill the streets of St. Louis’ Soulard neighborhood to celebrate with music, colorful beads and booze. The holiday is one of St. Louis’ biggest events, but it’s even bigger in cities across the country and world.
The holiday dates back to the middle ages and has evolved over time. On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh explored Mardi Gras festivities here in St. Louis and Brazil, where the holiday is referred to as Carnival.
Joining the discussion was Mack Bradley, president of the Mardi Gras Foundation, who detailed the holiday’s history in the region. He explained that there is often a misconception that the local parade observance of Mardi Gras began when St. Louis was part of the French colonial territory.
“[St. Louis’ French heritage] doesn't have anything to do with it,” Bradley reiterated. “In the bleak winter of 1980, there were five friends who were bored; it was a terrible winter and they decided they want to have a party.”
The friends set a Mardi Gras theme and gathered to party in a building on Russell Blvd., which later became Hilary’s Place. Afterwards, they marched up to John D. McGurk's Irish Pub and Garden restaurant.
“Legend has it [that’s] where they got thrown out for being too loud. So that was the first Mardi Gras parade – two and a half blocks from what was Hilary’s up to McGurk’s,” Bradley added.
Also participating in Tuesday’s discussion was musician Moacyr Marchini, a native Brazilian who moved to St. Louis in the mid ‘90s. He founded Samba Bom, a Midwest-based music ensemble that performs “the authentic sounds of Brazil mixed with the flavor of Carnival.” The band performs at various Mardi Gras celebrations in the region.
While St. Louis’ festivities are mainly one day, Marchini described the four-day celebration in Brazil as a time when the “whole country closes.”
“Carnival in Brazil is just like [if] the Fourth of July and the Super Bowl combined as a huge – probably the biggest – party on Earth,” he said. “It’s a big part of the culture where we mix all the elements from the Indigenous [Brazilians], the Africans and Europeans and we blend everything together through a parade.”
Listen to the full discussion:
What: Samba Bom’s Brazilian Mardi Gras
When: 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Where: Barcelona Tapas Restaurant (34 N Central Ave, Clayton, Missouri 63105)
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Jon Lewis give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.
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