Mardi Gras with a Bull City flair
At the second Mardi Gras parade held last year, Chuck Davis, king of the parade, led participants in chanting “Peace for the Planet.” After a warm-up session at The Pinhook bar, the Bulltown Strutters held a pre-parade parade on Main Street. The band filed into Beyu Caffe, playing for the diners, before joining the official parade.
The Bulltown Strutters and other revelers – including some past Beaver Queen Pageant contestants – were giving Mardi Gras a Durham stamp. The first year was an informal affair, a parade in the Rigsbee Avenue area, but last year the parade got more organized, said Debra Billieux Hawkins, who along with Daniel Singer is co-captain of the Krewe of Ariadne. Ariadne and the krewe Banished Fools have been at both of the Durham parades, Billieux Hawkins said.
In New Orleans, krewes are organizations that put on parades, and Durham residents have set up some loosely organized krewes that follow in that tradition. Among the other local krewes are the Mystic Order of Socratic Monkeys, Lola the Dragon, Krewe of Camel Toes, Bull City Beer Runners, and the Society of Sacred Bulls.
Krewes are also associated with groups that help the community, a fact that inspired Krewe Ariadne to present today’s Ariadne Charity Masked Ball at The Scrap Exchange. “I thought, giving back is part of the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition. How can I make something happen?” Billieux Hawkins said. She chose PORCH-Durham to benefit from today’s charity ball because its purpose “struck a chord with me,” she said. The organization PORCH-Durham raises money for Backpack Buddies, which makes sure that needy children in Durham Public Schools and the John Avery Boys & Girls Club have food for the weekend. Billieux Hawkins said she grew up in a working class family in Massachusetts, and her parents grew their own food and taught her self-sufficiency in difficult times. Her mother “knew hunger growing up in the most economically depressed town in my home state Massachusetts,” she said.
Billieux Hawkins expects Durham’s Mardi Gras traditions to continue to grow. “It’s a real fun type of celebration. That tradition seems to be catching on, particularly in the Gulf. … Durham loves having fun and having a good time, and I think this is going to become part of Durham’s unique way of celebrating traditions,” she said.