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Hattiesburg Celebrates Mardi Gras While Helping Children

Hattiesburg Celebrates Mardi Gras While Helping Children

Since 2012, the Caerus Mardi Gras Parade, founded and sponsored by Keith Superstores of Hattiesburg, has brought a taste of the 17th Century European tradition to downtown Hattiesburg. However, the creators of this annual Mardi Gras event make sure the festivities center around charities and children more than tradition.

“A lot of children have never seen anything like the Mardi Gras parade,” said Melissa Davis-Saucier, co-founder and marketing director of Keith Superstores and KeithCo Companies. “They leave with bags of free goodies. Some are so weighted down they can hardly move.”This year’s parade will happen Saturday, February 11 at 11 a.m. in downtown Hattiesburg (find the route at Caerusmardigras.com).

Davis-Saucier and her husband, Keith, started the parade with the children and community in mind. The glow on the faces of children and adults makes the year-long efforts by the small, hard-working committee well worth its time and dedication.

“It’s a clean family, fun event. A lot of children in our area would never make it down to New Orleans, or the Gulf Coast or Mobile for a Mardi Gras parade,” she said. “We were looking for something to do for our community and children.”

Davis-Saucier said the parade, which was run as a pilot the first year, went over so well that the Hattiesburg City Department and Police Department deemed it a wonderful event. The community accepted it so well, they encouraged the committee to make it a yearly event. The committee never asks for sponsorships. What they want from businesses is their participation in the parade.

Last year there were 64 floats. The parade committee, however, concentrates on the number of participants rather than entries because 40 to 50 people might make up one entry.

The parade theme is simply “Mardi Gras.” This means participants don’t have to change decorations or costumes year to year, making the parade affordable. Businesses are encouraged to be creative when designing their floats and provide adequate throws during the parade, which lasts about two hours.

Floats are judged and prizes for categories vary from year to year. This year, the parade has enjoyed more interest and entries from businesses than ever before.

“Just about every bank has entered the parade. Walmart will have a float, as well as smaller businesses,” Davis-Saucier said.

“Everyone wants to be involved.”

The float entry fee is $125 and it’s never too late to register.

“We will not turn anyone away if they agree to the parade rules and have the required documentation, proof of insurance, a copy of their driver’s license, and entry fee,” she added.

It is estimated that approximately 10,000 to 15,000 people attend every year.

“We started with that number and now have up to 70,000 people coming to Hattiesburg for the parade,” Davis-Saucier said.

Proceeds from the parade always go to a local non-profit/charity. This year’s recipient is the Abbie Rogers Civitan Camp, a camp for adults and children with special needs and disabilities.

“Helping the businesses in Hattiesburg and giving back to charities comes under one umbrella,” Davis-Saucier said. “It is truly magical and beautiful when the community comes together to provide something for the children.”

 

By Richelle Putnam

 

The Caerus Mardi Gras Ball

(Open to the Public)

February 18, 7 p.m. to midnight

Historically, mystic societies — the clubs that organize parades — hosted by-invitation-only formal bal masques (masquerade balls), upholding strict dress codes requiring evening gowns and white tie with tail formal attire, and requiring masks, for anonymity. However, the Hattiesburg Caerus (Ky-rus) Mardi Gras Ball is open to all.

“Everyone is welcome and encouraged to dress from casual to formal, but also in costumes. We don’t ever put restrictions on dress or tell people what they need to wear,” Davis Saucier said.

There will be live entertainment provided by a local band, The Strays, and guests will enjoy a full-course buffet dinner. There will also be a cash bar. The Caerus Mardi Gras Ball will be held at Lake Terrace Convention Center on February 18 from 7 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $60 per person and will be available at the door. For details, visit Caerusmardigras.com.

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