Mardi Gras in full throttle at Washington, D.C., events

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XLVII in New Orleans may keep more people in the state this year, but that isn’t stopping 2,000 or so people from still celebrating Washington Mardi Gras this week.

The festivities kicked off with the “Let the World Be Your Oyster Reception” on Wednesday night and more than 2,000 people were estimated to attend the “Louisiana Alive” party on Thursday evening at the Washington Hilton.

The week culminates with the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians’ formal Washington Mardi Gras Ball on Saturday night that is captained by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and chaired by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge.

Joe Broussard, one of three senior lieutenant organizers for Washington Mardi Gras, said the festivities are going “great” despite the timing coinciding with the nation’s biggest sporting event.

“It will not dampen our spirits,” Broussard said. “Everything has still been well attended. Everything is going smoothly.”

Broussard should know. He attended the very first Washington Mardi Gras in 1944 as a 13-year-old when the event was held at a time when Mardi Gras in Louisiana was on hold because of World War II.

Broussard said about 400 fewer people are participating than usual. But Thursday’s more casual and affordable “Louisiana Alive” event, for instance, has even outgrown the ball in terms of attendance in recent years, he said.

Four hundred more people could have never fit into Acadiana Restaurant on Wednesday for the oyster reception that featured a raw oyster bar of multiple varieties and creative oyster servings like oyster fritters, buffalo-style oysters and cucumber caviar oysters.

The event was organized by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and other sponsors and has become a hot ticket each year.

Ruffino’s Restaurant Executive Chef Peter Sclafani, of Baton Rouge, was among those serving oysters and other delicacies like crawfish cheesecake at multiple events.

“It’s an honor for us to be up here representing Louisiana and Baton Rouge, in particular,” said Sclafani, who is preparing to open up Ruffino’s on the River in Lafayette soon.

“A lot of people still think there’s issues with Louisiana seafood,” Sclafani said, referring to the 2010 BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. “But we want to show it’s healthy and delicious.”

George Swift, president of the SWLA Chamber-Economic Development Alliance in Lake Charles, said Washington Mardi Gras is a “good time,” but also a critical opportunity to pursue projects and economic opportunities.

“It’s a tremendous networking opportunity,” Swift said, not long after a meeting he had with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. “You get to see all the business leaders and (congressional) delegation in a casual setting.”

As such, Friday features the Washington Mardi Gras Economic Development Luncheon before transitioning into the more festive Friday Night Captain’s Dinner Dance.

Broussard said business leaders sometimes tell him they accomplish more through networking in 15 minutes at Washington Mardi Gras events than they did during the previous six months.