Gannon University’s International Student Office held a Mardi Gras party Tuesday evening at the Knight Club.
Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday,” began hundreds of years ago as a time to celebrate on the night before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
The celebration has become most associated with New Orleans, most specifically Bourbon Street, because of the massive Mardi Gras celebration that has taken place there for many years. As a result, Tuesday’s event at the Knight Club incorporated many characteristics that are typical of the way that Mardi Gras is celebrated in this Louisiana city.
One of the most immediately recognizable staples of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebration is the food, which the Knight Club event made sure to incorporate.
On the menu for the party was King Cake – a danish type dough that is iced and braided with cinnamon; Paczki – a Polish-American traditional dessert; Fastnachts – another traditional Mardi Gras dessert and a mildly spicy rice and red beans creole dish.
The event also offered a non-alcoholic take on a customary Mardi Gras beverage called a hurricane.
In addition to the free food and drinks, the party also offered prizes, beads, candy and a craft station where you could make and decorate your own masquerade-style mask.
As far as music goes, the event stuck with the customary New Orlean’s style jazz and blues that typically accompany Fat Tuesday celebrations. Jubilant songs such as, “When the Saints Go Marching In” by New Orleanes-native Louis Armstrong provided the soundtrack for the occasion.
Barb Zarnick, international student adviser, said she put the event together as part of an ongoing effort to expose Gannon students from other countries to American holidays and traditions.
“Many international students have never experienced Mardi Gras because it may not be celebrated in their home countries,” Zarnick said, “so we like to offer them events like these that let them experience something new.”
Zarnick also said she wasn’t looking for just international students to attend, however.
“This event is for all Gannon students, international and domestic alike,” she said.
“I think it gives any student a reason to shake the winter blues and get out of their dorm rooms for a bit.”
In fact, the event represented a seemingly equal mix of international and U.S. native students.
Tyler Carnegie, a junior English major, said he didn’t even know about the event until just before showing up.
“My friends asked me to go so I went with them,” Carnegie said. “I’ve actually always wanted to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, so this is like the next best thing.
“These types of events usually aren’t my thing, but I’m definitely glad I came.”
Zak Stanczyk, a sophomore criminal justice major, said he has been to New Orleans once before, but not for Mardi Gras.
“New Orleans was just a really cool place to be so I wish I could experience Mardi Gras there,” Stanczyk said.
“But it’s nice to have an event like this that gives you a little taste for the culture and how it influences the celebration.”