Gunni-Gras Coming Downtown

Fun and funky Mardis Gras, Gunnison-style

INAUGURAL GUNNI-GRAS

The inaugural Gunni-Gras parade, pub crawl and party is happening in downtown Gunnison. Co-sponsored by the Gunnison Chamber of Commerce and Timbers Sports Bar, the two day party starts Saturday, Feb.10 and culminates on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Everyone attending is highly encouraged to celebrate in costume.

Spearheading the ideas behind the Mardis Gras style event is Gunnison resident Tammi Gardner. Gardner grew up in Glenwood Springs, but lived in Natchez, Miss., for 24 years before moving to Gunnison with her husband, Gunnison Public Works Director David Gardner.

Natchez is only a three hour drive from New Orleans, so carnival activities are pretty important.

The annual Mardi Gras was a beloved tradition for Gardner, especially in the dead of winter when a boost in spirits and economic vitality was needed.

“I was the downtown development director for Natchez, so I’m very familiar with event planning,” Gardner said. “I realized how big of an impact (Natchez’s) Mardi Gras had on the community and thought, ‘Let’s do something similar but fun and funky, Gunnison-style.”

Gardner has formed a “krewe,” dubbed the Ice Pirates, to formally plan for this and future events. The name is a nod to Gunnison’s cold climate.

A krewe is any group of individuals who have meetings to plan a Mardi Gras event, participate in parades and float creation, and attend social gatherings throughout the year.

Southwest Louisiana, for example, boasts 50 krewes, with the number growing each season. The groups usually have a color theme they showcase within their costumes and floats. Gardner hopes that the number of Gunnison krewes grows each year.

Each krewe can assign royalty to whomever they’d like to represent their organization by whatever method they agree upon.

The Ice Pirates have crowned their “King and Queen,” Wayne and Vicki Castka of Into the Woods gift shop on Main Street, who were chosen for their contributions to the community.

On Saturday, Feb. 10, the pub crawl will be happening at eight eateries throughout town with a shuttle available to bring patrons to the various stops. Each ticket includes a meal voucher for use only at Burnell’s Food Truck at Timber’s from 5-9 p.m., two drink vouchers for use at participating venues, and a door prize voucher.

Each venue will have a featured appetizer and cocktail showcasing the Cajun-Creole theme. Twisted Fork, for example, is offering a bourbon chicken and Bourbon Street blackberry brut drink and Garlic Mike’s is showcasing Cajun deviled eggs and a Queen Mardi Gras cocktail.

On Tuesday, Feb. 13 the parade will commence, complete with festive floats and costumes. Float entry is free but must register through the Chamber via the entry form on their website.

Starting at 4:30 p.m, Main Street will close. At 5:30 p.m. at the intersection of Ohio and Main, the parade will travel south to the Gunnison Arts Center (GAC), which will be hosting the after-parade party.

The Western State Colorado University jazz band will be performing for an hour or so inside GAC while Garlic Mike’s and Burnell’s will have food available for purchase.

Part of the reasoning behind splitting the pub crawl from the parade was to broaden the inclusion of the party to all age groups.

“My family loves the sense of community and the importance of family based functions here in Gunnison,” Gardner said. “We have an 11-yearold, so we wanted to make sure everyone could be a part of the party in some way.” Tickets for the pub crawl can be purchased via the Gunnison Chamber of Commerce website through Feb.

9,  (http://www.gunnisonchamber.com/gunni-gras---mardi-gras-pub-crawl) Must be 21 or older to purchase pub crawl tickets as they include alcoholic beverage vouchers.