AP NEWS

Mardi Gras weekend heats up, despite cold forecast

March 2, 2019

DEADWOOD — With temperatures forecasted to be in the single digits Friday and Saturday, Deadwood’s Mardi Gras celebration continues to heat up, though revelers should bundle up to battle it out for those beads.

With free food, free entertainment, and a chance to score dozens of beads to be thrown at Saturday’s 7 p.m. Main Street parade, Mardi Gras continues to be a pre-Lent mission for many, and cold temps aren’t likely to dissuade their en masse arrival.

The parade features fantastic floats, and the food, authentic Cajun, complete with Zydeco music at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Silverado-Franklin Gaming Complex, combine to make Mardi Gras one of Deadwood’s longest running events.

“We’ve dialed in what works, and a big part of that is food,” said Deadwood Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director Amanda Kille. “Every year Deadwood restaurants show off their skills and serve something different. Plus, it’s a type of cuisine that you normally can’t find anywhere around here.”

The Cajun Food Crawl starts at 6 p.m. and features the following fare at these locations: appetizers and soups-Nugget Saloon, Eagle Bar & Steakhouse, Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort, Buffalo Bodega; main course-Mineral Palace, Saloon #10, Gold Dust Casino, Deadwood Mountain Grand, His & Hers Ale House and Wine Bar; and dessert-Silverado-Franklin Hotel & Gaming Complex.

More Mardi-Gras-inspired dishes are slated to be created for Saturday’s Cajun Cookoff from 2-4 p.m. at these locations: Saloon #10/Social Club, Tin Lizzie, Wild Bill Bar, Nugget Saloon, Eagle Bar & Steakhouse, Mineral Palace/Gem Steakhouse, Gold Dust/Mavericks Steak & Cocktails, Buffalo/Bodega. This cook-off competition features free food samplings, the chance to vote for favorites, and the ability to taste some of the best Cajun food around.

“The chefs pull out all the stops and always come up with something new to impress the judges and the public,” Kille said.

An estimate on the number of people attending Mardi Gras is difficult to gauge, but its significant economic impact on local businesses is a positive tell-tale sign.

“Every year is a little different, and the whole weekend is free, so we don’t have ticket counts to go back to,” Kille said, describing that a conservative estimate is in the thousands. “As a Chamber and Visitor’s Bureau, events are a key part of our strategy to drive demand and visitation year-round. Deadwood’s doors never close, and these events help remind people that we’re the ideal getaway destination.”

In years past, the Deadwood Pavilion was used to house floats and float building projects, but apparently, the recent demolition of the building hasn’t impacted parade participation.

“That’s the interesting but good part,” Kille said. “We expected to have entries drop, but it’s like everyone took it as a challenge. We already have five more businesses committed to entries than we did last year. We hope more will show up for the parade lineup and be part of this fun event. It’s open to everyone — so come on out. The chamber orders tens of thousands of beads that we throw from our floats and share with other entries. Speaking of that, it’s free to enter a float. The only requirement is that it has to be lighted.”

Prizes are awarded for parade entries in six different categories: Best Overall, Best Mardi Gras Theme, Best Lights, Mayor’s Choice, Best Business, and Community Spirit.

“Here in Deadwood, we’ve been celebrating Mardi Gras for quite a while and are always looking for ways to raise the bar of excitement. It’s Mardi Gras in the Wild West, which is pretty unique in and of itself,” Kille said. “I believe the closest celebration is in St. Louis, Missouri, almost 1,000 miles away.”

Normally town fills up fast. and Kille’s quick search on Deadwood.com Monday showed there are rooms still available for this weekend.

“But we encourage people to not wait,” she added.

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