On Tuesday, Feb. 21, WMGP radio hosted their Mardi Gras party on the Portland campus. This tradition started when the station’s DJs attended Mardi Gras down in Louisiana and were inspired by the traditional jazz and blues music to create their very own Mardi Gras celebration right here at USM.
Mardi Gras is a carnival that occurs on the day before Ash Wednesday, as ‘Mardi Gras’ means Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday is the last day before Lent. Lent is a time of fasting that lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Traditions of Mardi Gras include a lot of music, food, and fun before the forty days of fasting. Mardi Gras has been celebrated for thousands of years in Europe, but has only existed in the U.S. since the turn of the eighteenth century, when French colonists landed near present day New Orleans. Many Mardi Gras traditions come from New Orleans, which is home to the world’s largest celebration which starts a full two weeks before Fat Tuesday. The parties and parades are full of music, dancing, colorful costumes and classic Cajun and Creole food.
WMPG brought all of that to Abromson, where local restaurants and their very own DJs came together to bring Mardi Gras to life. The DJs took turns playing their favorite jazz and blues tunes. DJ Eydie May was dressed to impress in a traditional Mardi Gras-style mask. She has a New Orleans themed show on the station called Lagniappe where she plays soul/funk and jazz music. You can catch Eydie every Monday from 10:00-10:30 a.m. EST on 90.9 WMGP.
It wouldn’t be Mardi Gras without some classic Cajun and Creole style cooking. Local businesses, including Great Lost Bear, Soul Food Paradise, Bayside American Cafe, Crawl, Ruski’s, Po’ Boys & Pickles, and Sodexo all participated in the Cajun Cooking Challenge. Event-goers could go around and taste-test a wide variety of tasty Cajun dishes, including different styles of gumbo that had anything from sausage to crickets in them. Although it might sound strange, crickets are a common and versatile part of Cajun cooking. For dessert there was the classic king cake. Tradition says that if you are the one lucky enough to find the plastic baby hidden in the cake, then you are declared king of Mardi Gras. After deciding which Cajun dish was the best, event-goers could go and cast their vote and grab some colorful beads and WMPG stickers. In the end it was Sodexo that was crowned the Cajun cooking champion of this Mardi Gras.