OS Mardi Gras (Carnival)
The brainchild of three influential members of BPOE 2501, the OS Elks Mardi Gras was born in 1975 in Jolly Corks fashion. Don Davis, Al Auge, and Robby Taylor wanted to have a fun event for members and their families to give them an opportunity to enjoy time together and celebrate the many charitable events Elks are devoted to. The first OS Elks Mardi Gras Ball was, and still is, considered somewhat unorthodox in Mardi Gras circles. Fun was the main ingredient, with less formalities and pomp and circumstance; it was a great success in its infancy and continues to be a highlight of the many events put on by our lodge.
We will celebrate our 43rd ball and parade in 2018. We have crowned many Kings and Queens, whom are nominated and elected by the past kings and queens. The King and Queen are notified around June or July and introduced to the lodge and public in November during a huge party they throw for invited guests.
The Ball and Parade attract active participation from members and the community. Every year, the OS Elks Mardi Gras Krewe chooses a theme for the Ball and Parade. The themes have ranged for “Star Wars” to “2000 Leaks Under the Sea,” to the 2018 theme “Life is a Game Show.” The theme is the basis for the show put on by the Krewe for the entertainment of the King and Queen as a thank you for all they have put into the Carnival season. The King and Queen pass out beads to match the theme. The theme also provides the parade participants the opportunity to decorate their floats, if they care to break away from the traditional Mardi Gras appearance.
The Ball has morphed and relocated over the years. In the early years the ball was held at the lodge, when the crowds were smaller; it has been held at the Coast Coliseum and currently is held at the Ocean Springs Civic Center and is open to the public. The Krewe picks a ball captain (who usually has the most fun) who dutifully watches over the royalty during the ball and parade. The krewe also selects a Grand Marshall for the parade. The Ball consists of the introduction of dignitaries such as Ladies Auxiliary President and Exalted Ruler, Lady Elk and Elk of the Year, among others, and culminates with the Past King and Queen crowning the new King and Queen. Once the short formalities are over, the krewe takes the stage for the show. Afterwards, the band is brought in for the festivities to begin for all; it is always a wonderful time.
The Parade has made leaps and bounds from its humble beginnings of a few cars throwing beads to the children of the lodge. It has relocated a couple times in downtown Ocean Springs, with its final route being established approximately 27 years ago. Approximately 40 years ago, it consisted of 18 units and attended by a crowd of maybe 1,000 people. Today, it ranges from 85 to 100 units and is attended by crowds of over 30,000 at times. The parade rolls rain or shine and has even endured a rare ice storm. We are touted as the first major parade to roll out carnival season and are followed by several other parades. Great effort is put into the planning of a successful parade, with meetings starting in July to ensure the lodge, the City, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, the Police, as well as other entities are all on the same page. Everyone’s cooperation is paramount, and the open communication enables our parade to be extremely successful and touted as a family friendly parade. We are most proud of the fact that we were the first of a few parades to roll after the devastation of hurricane Katrina and it was most appreciated by the public. Everyone needed an enjoyable break from the recovery efforts.
Three members with a vision, and the dedication of all who followed in the past forty-three years, have put our lodge on the map. Without the support of our membership, especially our Ladies Auxiliary, and numerous outside entities, this event would not be the highlight of the Coast’s Mardi Gras season that it is. Elks Care, Elks Share and they certainly provide fun for members and the community during Mardi Gras.