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Beyond Beads - Sandpoint does Mardi Gras

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Beyond Beads - Sandpoint does Mardi Gras

From Thursday through Fat Tuesday, there's something for everyone

There’s no French Quarter in Sandpoint, no smell of fresh beignets and coffee in the morning, no jambalaya on order—except on special occasions—on local restaurant menus.  And of the about 30 churches with a Sandpoint mailing address, only one is Catholic. Nonetheless, intrepid residents from Sandpoint and beyond will take part in a traditional holiday of debauchery marking the beginning of Lent, as Madcap Mardi Gras fills local businesses with activity in its eighth annual celebration from February 11 through February 16.

It started as the brainstorm of Marsha Ogilvie, now a Sandpoint city council member but then the owner of All Smiles, and her desire to do something to make Sandpoint a ‘destination place’ during the dreary days after Christmas while winter holds what seems to be a never-ending grip on the area. (Except for this year, of course.)

Jeff Nizzoli, owner of Eichardt’s, had long put on a Mardi Gras party of his own and he was an enthusiastic early supporter. and, after eleven months of meetings, with a core group of about a dozen, Sandpoint hosted its first Mardi Gras celebration.

“We wanted all the fun and excitement of this holiday, while still doing something that emphasized the family-friendly nature of our town,” Marsha explained. So no, you’re not going to see topless women begging for beads as massive floats drive down First Avenue. But what you will see is an awful lot of people having an awful lot of fun.

A top event for this year’s Mardi Gras, as it has been for each of the previous ones, is the Madcap Golf Scramble. Businesses throughout the downtown area convert their retail space into amazingly creative miniature golf holes; in many cases, libations are also provided. Golfers, in teams of four, play in costume, anything from a simple bundle of beads around the neck to more elaborate creations involving feathers, leather and more.

“Mardi Gras Golf is one of the most insane events we have in Sandpoint,” said Pierre Bordenave, who has made up a foursome each year. “The basic premise is to get dressed up in your best Mardi Gras golf outfit and try your luck at sinking the putts on some of the most intriguing and world class golf hole layouts in the world.  This is the original and the only Sandpoint Open where each business has set up a hole for the players to play through their business, all the while being distracted by a variety of unconventional hazards and often at various levels of impaired state of mind.  This is for adults and expects a lot from those that have stayed out late on Friday night to get in and play at the shotgun start at 9 am Saturday, but it is worth it.”

Cost for golf is $25 per person and includes lunch. Register with Sue at 208-263-9391 or online here. The downtown golf scramble takes place on Saturday, February 13 with a shotgun start at 9 am.

 Kathleen Hyde owned Bearweare Graphics downtown and hosted a ‘golf hole’ from the first. Now the director of the Downtown Sandpoint Business Association, she’s also now in charge of the entire Mardi Gras celebration, due to its benefit for downtown businesses.

“It’s great to see all the people downtown who come to participate in the events,” she explained. “With things like the poker run and the mini golf, businesses that might not normally draw a crowd have the opportunity to entice people through their doors and see what they have to offer.”

The Madcap Poker Run is another crowd pleaser, though card skills are not required. Over 30 businesses downtown participate. Players can go to any or all and, depending on the business, have to perform in some manner, for which they get a card. The best resulting poker hand wins.

What types of performance? Each business chooses their own, but in years past performances have included Mexican hat dances (Jalapenos), Elvis Presley imitations (Larson’s), and a rather memorable oyster-swallowing challenge one year at the then Power House Bar & Grill.

The poker run takes place on Monday, February 15 from 3 to 6 pm ending up with an awards party at MickDuff’s.

Looking for fun with the kids? Sunday, February 14, is Family Day from 11 am to 1 pm. Test your skills at carving Spam (yes, Spam) into creative shapes, or see just how many Oreo cookies you can stack before your tower falls over. Make your own mask to wear as you celebrate carnival silliness.

On Saturday, February 13 from 1 to 5 pm learn about the delicate balance of a rubber chicken as you attempt to fling it into various containers and targets. Each participating business downtown features its own unique themes and prizes. Many businesses also offer the opportunity to guess the number of beads in a bowl—a chaste way to build up your collection.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Carnival week, Pend d’Oreille Winery in downtown Sandpoint encourages you to celebrate Mardi Gras with your favorite valentine by presenting Merlove & Chocolate, the opportunity to pair their Merlot Library Flight with three different types of chocolate. Live music is also provided.

Perhaps nowhere else does the spirit of Mardi Gras pervade more deeply than during the Angels Over Sandpoint’s annual variety revue, The Follies. If you’re 21 or older, get your tickets now (order online at Sandpoint General Store) for a Friday or Saturday performance at the Panida Theater. As the Angels warn each year, skip this event if you find you’re easily offended.

Mardi Gras. The words are actually French for Fat Tuesday, though the holiday has grown far beyond that last day prior to Lent, a forty-day period (not counting Sundays) prior to Easter where the adherents of many Christian faiths commemorate and  imitate Christ’s 40-day sojourn in the wilderness. As Lent is to abstinence, Mardi Gras is to gluttony, and Fat Tuesday is when it reaches its peak.

This is North Idaho, however, so don’t expect anything too wild. Nevertheless, if you’re not exhausted from the week’s previous events, Fat Tuesday offers you one last chance to celebrate.

MickDuff’s downtown will host a special Mardi Gras trivia night where you can strut your knowledge of all things Carnival. It starts at 7 pm.

And because Sandpoint is, after all, Sandpoint, even fun serves a purpose. In addition to helping fill the Angels’ coffers by purchasing tickets to the Follies, and thus furthering their good works, Fat Tuesday  also offers the kick-off to the Relay for Life.  Stop by the Masonic Lodge downtown on 2nd avenue at 5:30 for complimentary appetizers and drinks, and learn how you can help in the fight against cancer. This year’s Relay for Life will take place June 4 and 5 at the Bonner County Fairgrounds. You can learn more here.

-Trish Gannon

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Landon Otis

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Sandpoint, Follies, DSBA, Kathleen Hyde, Marsha Ogilvie, Mardi Gras, Jeff Nizzoli, Pierre Bordenave, Eichardt's

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