Saturday ** February 21st ** Soulard **
St. Louis is proudly home to the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the nation. Beginning in the Soulard neighborhood adjacent to downtown St. Louis some 30 years ago by bored, boozed up regulars at the former Hilary's bar when they decided to march to another establishment carrying all of the Mardi Gras accoutrements and parading down the street with 50 or so friends a piece. Before long hundreds of people were gathering each year at house parties in the Soulard neighborhood and joining in the annual midnight Mardi Gras parade.
St. Louis Mardi Gras
In the Soulard neighborhood
9th and Geyer, St. Louis, Missouri; Tel. 314.771.5110
Now the annual festival has become so large as to draw people from all over the country to St. Louis. In fact what was once just a semi-intimate party for friends now encompasses all of downtown St. Louis. The total number of partiers and participants grows exponentially every year with recent estimates reaching the half million mark. The sponsorship for the event has grown along with the festivities, not only being put on by the City of St. Louis and the neighborhood of Soulard, but by the likes of Anheuser-Busch and Southern Comfort.
The festivities start well before Fat Tuesday, in fact they start on January 6th with the annual twelfth night celebration which petitions the King of Mardi Gras to proclaim a celebration that is then followed by a short parade. Throughout January, Soulard hosts a variety of events in preparation for Mardi Gras including wine tastings and Cajun cook-offs. But, not all events are focused on booze and food there's also family friendly events like the pet parade and the Children's Art Fair. The St. Louis Mardi Gras festival is so huge that the entire city joins in the fun, even the Mayor's office hosts exclusive black tie balls at City Hall and the parade marches through all of downtown to the designated party spot in the heart of Soulard.
All of these festivities finally culminate in the mid-February Mardi Gras Grand Parade and the Fat Tuesday party. The all day parade and festival boasts dozens of floats and hundreds of thousands revelers getting in food, drink and as many sins as they can before the traditional Christian season of Lent. Of course, as with any Mardi Gras festival, the fun and madness can get a little out of hand, but the St. Louis Mardi Gras is continually known as being relatively under control, the bars in Soulard even close early in the effort to keep things from getting too crazy. You have to tip your hat to the City of St. Louis, the promoters, participants and partiers for making their Mardi Gras celebration the best block party in the Midwest.
—St. Louis Mardi Gras review by Ryan Osterbeck