It is no secret that Tybee Island needs no reason to throw a party, but when a great reason rolls around, you can be sure we are all over it.

Each year in late winter/early spring, Tybee Island celebrates Mardi Gras. The island dusts off the purple, green and gold and puts on a weekend celebration that helps shake off the winter blues.

According to the History Channel, the Carnival season, which culminates in Mardi Gras, began as a pagan festival that was later adopted by the Christian church. The festival's incorporation by the church helped morph it into the festival that we recognize today.

Mardi Gras is a celebration of excess and debauchery before the penitent season of Lent.

Carnival and Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout the world, particularly in places with large Catholic populations, but a majority of the traditions you will see in Tybee's event are borrowed from the United States' largest party in New Orleans. The French brought Mardi Gras to the states and since its arrival, the event has grown to include masquerade balls, street parties, colorful costumes, masks and parades.

Of course, you need not be Catholic to participate in Tybee's Mardi Gras. All are welcome to join the fun.

Tybee is drumming up its unique, beachy mix of hospitality for the multi-day event.

This year's Mardi Gras is under the direction of the Tybee South End Association of Bars and Restaurants. The event marks the new association's second island-wide event following its ambitious production of the 2013 Tybee Island Pirate Fest.

Under the new leadership, the event encompasses several Mardi Gras traditions while giving it a Tybee spin.

First up is the King Cake Party on Feb. 27, hosted at the ever-delicious Coco's Sunset Grill overlooking Lazaretto Creek. As a tradition that began to celebrate the 12th night, or the arrival of the three kings, the King Cake is a festive and favorite part of any proper Mardi Gras celebration.

Typically, brioche dough is filled with a variety of tasty fillings, iced and decorated in Mardi Gras colors. The most exciting, and possibly creepy, part of the King Cake tradition is the addition of a small plastic baby to the baked cake.

The lucky person to bite down on the trinket is blessed with a year of luck and the task of carrying on the tradition the next year.

Coco's event features music from 2ToneFish, along with jambalaya, etoufee, Abita's Mardi Gras Brock, $5 hurricanes and one of the best sunset views from anywhere on the island.

Never one to be left out, Fannie's on the Beach picks up the Mardi Gras torch Feb. 28 with the N'awlins Party. A stalwart of Tybee's beachfront, Fannie's is famous for its colorful, over-the-top parties and interesting cast of characters. Brad Randall and the Zydeco Ballers headline this year's party with their take on the traditional sounds of a New Orleans bash. Guests will enjoy hors d'oeuvres, a Krewe Cup contest and a costume contest all overlooking the beautiful Tybee beach.

The big event kicks off at noon March 1, with the Mardi Gras street party on Tybrisa Street. The main stage will again go up at the roundabout at Tybrisa and Strand avenues. Live music begins at 1 p.m. with Brad Randall and the Zydeco Ballers at 3 p.m., followed by Voodoo Soup at 6 p.m.

Guests are encouraged to swing by the new food tent for the "Ragin' Cajun" crawfish boil and gumbo.

At 2 p.m., the Mardi Gras parade makes its way down Butler Avenue through the street party. The parade features colorful floats and plenty of beads.

Mardi Gras Tybee kicks off the spring season of outdoor events. With its colorful, carefree atmosphere and deeply rooted traditions, Mardi Gras is fun for the whole family.


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