Mardi Gras is officially Tuesday, February 12, this year, but downtown’s Findlay Market got into the celebratory spirit early with a second line parade led by the local Cajun gypsy band Lagniappe. The parade featured a King and Queen of Mardi Gras (Steve Hampton and Joy Pierson) as well as folks in brightly colored feathered costumes, just like New Orleans.
The festivities on Sunday, February 10, started at about 11:00 a.m., with Chico Converse and his band, Lagniappe, kicking things off with some rousing tunes as the parade wound its way through the market house. Stands at the market were decorated with green, gold, and purple masks; there were baskets of beads at many shops; and you could smell spices and crawfish boiling. The Belgian Waffle shop at the main intersection of the market house had a display of King cakes as revelers promenaded down the aisle. There were also Cajun specialties at many of the takeaway counters.
A large tent set up on the Essen Strasse, at the south side of Findlay Market, was filled to capacity with folks wearing winter coats and beads who had come to listen to the day’s line up of New Orleans-inspired local music. After Lagniappe, Robin Lacy and deZydeco played, followed by Cincinnati's premiere boogie woogie piano player Ricky Nye. The afternoon’s entertainment wrapped up with the Medicine Men.
Between acts, the audience could grab a bowl of crawfish boil, sample some barbecue, or even enjoy a cold beer on a not-so-cold day. There was a big crowd to celebrate Mardi Gras Findlay Market-style, and everyone seemed to be having a grand time even though they were 800 miles north of the Crescent City. Sometimes New Orleans is simply a state of mind, and at Findlay Market, they caught the spirit of Mardi Gras, even if it was a couple of days early.