A Mardi Gras parade with a purpose: We have the beads, you bring the beans
Seven years ago, Athens State University Art Professor Gail Bergeron challenged her art sculpture students to help bring Mardi Gras to Downtown Athens.
The New Orleans native created a block party where students, dubbed the Athens State University Artheads, created head pieces based on a parade theme and ...
“I wanted to include floats, and during at Athens Arts League meeting, we discussed getting shopping carts, which led to inviting the community to come decorate carts, push them in the parade and collect canned food for our food bank,” Bergeron said. “We have the beads, you bring the beans.”
The Mardi Gras Block Party and Parade is Tuesday, Feb. 13, in Downtown Athens with activities starting at 5:30 p.m. and the parade starting at 6:30 p.m. Spectators are encouraged to bring canned beans or other canned food to put in the shopping cart floats. The Artheads and Athens Arts League will donate the items collected to the food bank at Limestone County Churches Involved.
“Gail enjoys having fun, and she and her art students have helped establish a free community celebration that grows each year,” Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said.
Lowe’s is among the stores donating use of shopping carts. On Feb. 8-10, groups that want to adopt one of the 10 shopping carts can go to High Cotton Arts at 103 W. Washington St. to decorate. This year’s theme is “Things That Fly.”
“Athens Arts League is doing a cart, and ours will be a tribute to Julie the Pig and will include wings so she can be an example of ‘when pigs fly,’” said Athens Arts League board member Holly Hollman. “Since this is the city’s bicentennial, we thought it was also a fun way to celebrate a unique story in our city’s history.”
In the 1980s, the city fathers wanted to run Julie out of Athens because her owner was violating the city ordinance regarding farm animals. The fight to keep Julia in the city limits made her the city’s unofficial mascot and led to her becoming queen of the Athens Christmas Parade. Her photograph was in newspapers and on television, not just locally, but nationwide. In one photograph, she is sipping Sun-Drop from a can as her owner holds it to her lips.
In addition to the shopping cart floats, the block party will include a free Mardi Gras mask making craft and wagon decorating at High Cotton Arts, and the International Crane Foundation and bead making booths at Athens State’s Center for Lifelong Learning. The Limestone County Courthouse will display Mardi Gras colors for the parade that will kick off 6:30 p.m. in front of the center. The parade will include the carts, Artheads and Athens High School’s Dixieland Band. Family friendly groups are welcome to participate.
For more information about adopting a cart or participating, email Gail Bergeron at Gail.Bergeron@athens.edu.