By: India Evans, Staff Writer
WMPG put on a Fat Tuesday party to celebrate Mardi Gras with their volunteers, listeners, USM and the greater Portland community. During the event, there was also New Orleans music being played with a live DJ from the radio station. This is the 25th Fat Tuesday event created by WMPG.
The event had a cook-off where restaurants from the Portland area came to show off their best food. The local restaurants were Bayside American Cafe, Lenny’s Pub, SMCC’s Culinary Arts Program, Po Boys and Pickles, and Sodexo USM Dining. The restaurants put their own modern spin to delicious Cajun food, with meals like cajun shrimp and rice skillet and cornbread with chili.
The inspiration for the WMPG event comes from Mardis Gras in New Orleans, which in French translates to “Fat Tuesday”; a day of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. Mardi Gras is about having a great time, eating exquisite food, and listening to interesting music, which is WMPG’s main focus.
Even though this is Maine, and Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans, there is a strong connection to it. Many French descendants migrated from Canada to Maine, where they are known as Acadians. In Maine alone, there are over 30,000 Acadians who have a rich history and connection to Louisiana. The event was meant to celebrate Acadians, and Mardi Gras as well, even though Maine is a thousand miles away from New Orleans.
“It’s an event where USM students, faculty and the greater Portland area all get to be in one place for a day,” said Dale Robin Goodman, the Development Director for WMPG. “People from all over Portland do come to this event and some come from out of town to attend. It brings different kinds of people together, where complete strangers are just talking to each other about the food and event overall.”
According to Goodman, the restaurant’s love to come to participate in this event as well. Some don’t even cook Cajun food at their own business but will create a dish to celebrate Mardi Gras. Participation also helps to generate business for the restaurant, because people that eat their Mardis Gras dish may decide to come to their actual establishment.
“Restaurants love to come to this event, and honestly it’s a good time for them because they get to feature their food, but also have fun where they get new customers from our event,” Dale said.
The cooking challenge, part of the Fat Tuesday event, was fun and casual, with no rules or judges. People came to talk, eat food, and have a great time.
“This event is community base, and it’s not supposed to be a competition. We just want people to come to the cooking challenge to have fun. That’s why it’s so great because it is a long-standing tradition of community,” Dale says.
The Fat Tuesday event took place in Woodbury Campus Center on Portland Campus.