We’re fast approaching the end of Carnival, the traditional Christian season of festivities before Lent. "Mardi gras" means "fat Tuesday" in French, marking a centuries-old ritual of feasting before fasting. Like your fellow revelers around the world and in New Orleans — the capital of Mardi Gras — you too can fatten up before giving up earthly pleasures and atoning for your sins. South Florida pays homage to the Big Easy’s party spirit at the following events, some of which spill over into March, in case you want to sneak in a bit more hedonism. What’s a few more days of celebration?
Mardi Gras Casino lives up to its name with a free four-day celebration that also marks the casino’s tenth anniversary. The party starts Friday, February 24, at 5 p.m. and ends Tuesday, February 28, at midnight. Showgirls, fire jugglers, mimes, magicians, and stilt-walkers will add to the Bourbon Street atmosphere, along with fireworks Saturday at 11 p.m. and Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. Nightly musical acts will conclude with headliners Gary Wright and '70s pop/rock band Orleans Tuesday at 8 p.m. Tickets to the grand finale show cost $20 to $60. All other shows are free. Visit mgfla.com or Facebook.
Ancient Italians celebrated Carnival in winter long before the French brought European traditions to the shores of Louisiana. In fact, the word "carnival" originated in Latin as carne and vale, literally “to throw away the flesh.” Get a little taste of Italian Carnival at the Coral Gables Museum this Saturday, February 25, from noon to 8 p.m. at a free, kid-friendly event featuring crafts, face painting, and authentic food and carnival treats such as fritelle and chiaccheire, available for purchase. Local Italian schools will perform from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by music from Giorgio and David of Sembra Ieri. The event is organized by the Italian International Parents Association. Visit iipamiami.org or Facebook.
Bar Crawl Nation wants to know if you’re ready to take over eight of downtown Fort Lauderdale’s best bars this Saturday, February 25, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets range from $24.99 general admission ($30 at the door) to $34.99 for beads and masks. Make it to every bar — along with the rest of the nearly 1,500 anticipated fellow drinkers — and win a Mardi Gras T-shirt. Everyone gets a souvenir mug and scorecard to keep track of the watering holes, all offering $3 drink specials. Visit barcrawlnation.com or Facebook.
Fort Lauderdale celebrates in grand style at the second-annual Fort Laudi Gras this Saturday, February 25, from 4 to 10 p.m. The free, family-friendly bash features BIG 105.9 FM’s Paul Castronovo as the king of Fort Laudi Gras, holding court over a creole feast of crawfish, oysters, gumbo, and jambalaya, along with Louisiana favorites such as Abita beer to help wash it all down. Mardi Gras bands and jesters will complement the Krewe stage entertainment, which includes pop-up burlesque shows. Face painting for the kids and a marketplace of top regional craft artists will complete the fun at the event, held indoors and outdoors at Revolution Live and America’s Backyard. Visit fortlaudigras.com or Facebook.
Jazz in the Gables, a free weekly concert series, will jazz it up real special next Tuesday, February 28, with a Mardi Gras-inspired performance featuring Hank’s Hot Jazz. Trombonist Hank Bredenberg leads the New Orleans-style band, which is inspired by swing Dixie arrangements and traditional jazz. Listen to Hank’s Hot Jazz from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the outdoor McBride Plaza. Visit jazzinthegables.org.