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History: Mardi Gras Month in Wyoming

February 10, 2024

News – Sheridan Media

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Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans this year is February 13, but there are many activities and parades which began in January.

The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe. In 1699, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, arrived in the New World some 60 mile south of what is now New Orleans and he named it Pointe de Mardi Gras, when he realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. In 1703, the newly established settlement of Fort Louis de la Louisiane, 1702, (Now Mobile), celebrated America’s first Mardi Gras. Since that time many other cities have established their own celebrations, including throughout Wyoming.

This story in the Rawlins Semi-Weekly Republican, March 24, 1900 talks about some of the history of the celebration. Arriving in New Orleans at 10 o’clock Monday morning, February 26th, we found the city crowded to overflowing incident to Mardi Gras week.

For fifty-one weeks each year the city devotes itself to commercial pursuits, but for the other week at least it halts in its busy career and gives itself up to unrestrained pleasure. For half a century Now Orleans has reveled in its Mardi Gras.

Originally celebrated as a festival of the Catholic church, (It is traditionally celebrated on “Fat Tuesday,” which is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent.) “its proportions gradually increased until it encompassed the whole people of the city, and, spreading thence, took possession of the inhabitants of the smaller towns of Louisiana until each hamlet in the state, or at least those villages in which the Catholic faith and the language of France were equally predominant, had each its Mardi Gras celebration, and its attendant jollity had mild license.”

Today the holiday has but little of the church, but tradition. Commercialism now dominates its management and the traditional fame and splendor of pageant serves to attract the multitude from every section throughout the land, apparently to be robbed after the most approved Yankee fashion.

In this New Orleans has made rapid advancement if in nothing else. A half dozen cities of the north give celebrations, which, for elaborateness of preparation and gorgeous display, are far ahead of the Mardi Gras as now constituted, even though it be asserted, and possibly with some truth, that they are largely patterned after the festival which has contributed much to New Orleans’ fame.

In its inception the carnival was mild and for years the celebration was confined to a series of street scenes in which the silken mask and straight-laced domino served to conceal the face of the aspirant. With its proportions ever swelling the carnival grew upon the people.

A New Orleans Street, 2002, Vannoy Photo

The domino was improved upon in a multiplicity of styles, and the simple disguises of early days were almost annihilated by a mystic medley of attires, grotesque and incongruous. In the celebration, chaos was everywhere, the only organization attempting a concise and definite demonstration being the “Mystic Krewe, or Krewe of Comus,” which had its inception during the year 1857, over forty years ago, and which in today one of the leading carnival associations of the Crescent City. Save for this single exception, the observance of the day — Shrove Tuesday, or “Mardi Gras,”— was by unorganized bands of strolling maskors, usually frequenting the lower or French quarters of the city.

This condition of affairs obtained until January 1872, when the Merry Monarch of the carnival was born. The procession consisted of a cavalcade and the king and suite in carriages. The Grand Duke Alexis, who was there at the time, reviewed the procession from the city hall. This coming of Rex paved the way for the magnificent pageants which, characterize the festivals of later years.

Although the best-known Mardi Gras celebrations as associated with New Orleans, other towns also had celebrations.

The Daily Boomerang, February 28, 1884

Wyoming towns also got into the Mardi Gras spirit with masked balls and dances to celebrate the season.

In March of 1893, there was a party in Dayton. The Sheridan Post posted this story. There will be a grand masquerade ball at Dayton Friday evening March 17, in Emery’s hall. Masks will be furnished by G.R. Gatewood. The reputation of the Dayton people for giving first-class entertainments of this character is sufficient guaranty that those who attend will be wall repaid.

Sheridan also held several masquerade balls, such as this one reported in The Sheridan Post, February 14, 1911 Delightful Time Masquerade Ball at Banner Was the Event of the Season—Large Party Present. The annual masquerade ball at Wolfe’s hall at Banner, Friday evening, was one of the pleasantest social events ever held in that community. The management outdid themselves to provide good time for those who attended, and how well they succeeded and how assured the guests were of an enjoyable evening was evidenced by the hundred and fifty who were present.

The dancing began at o’clock in the evening and continued until o’clock in the morning. five-piece orchestra furnished the music and there was never dull moment to the gay masqueraders. great variety of costumes were worn, including the beautiful, the comic, the grotesque; and when music arose it was an inspiring scene of color and motion. At 11 o’clock the dancers removed their masks and disclosed their identity, amid much merriment and with many surprises to friends and associates. An elaborate supper was announced at midnight, and for the ensuing hour the interest centered in the banquet hall. It was splendid feast, and one that put all previous efforts of the hospitable Wolfes in the shade.

During the evening Mr. Thomas Kettering of Dutch creek entertained the party with several charming vocal selections, and Mr. Frank Glasgow of Big Horn did jig and number of fancy dances which were roundly applauded. There were number present from Big Horn, Story, Hilman’s, Dutch creek, Carroll, Murphy Gulch, Prairie Dog, Kearney and Sheridan. This will be the last of the all-night dances for the season, those of the future will last until midnight. All who attended the dance are loud in their praises of the perfectly delightful time they had.

Sheridan Daily Enterprise, December 28, 1909

This from the Sheridan Post, January 31, 1911 – Lots of Fun at Highlander Hall Friday Evening—Prizes Awarded. One hundred couples attended and thoroughly enjoyed the masquerade dance given at Highlander ball Friday evening by the Sheridan Dancing club. There were costumes of all styles, shapes and sizes. Fun? It was the best ever. For the best comic costume, Thos. Carter carried off the first prize, Mexican walking stick. His indescribable costume was made of silk patches and resembled crazy quilt more than anything else. Coat, trouserettes and hat all matched in design if not in color.

Chas. Holman, dressed as plumed knight, with costume so perfect in every detail that he might have just stepped out of the 16th century, drew the prize for the most elaborate costume, silk umbrella.

Dressed to represent “Old Dutch Cleanser,” in imitation of the well known cartoon seen on packages of the cleansing powder by that name, Mrs. T. G. Brown, was awarded the prize for the best representative costume. Mrs. Roy Tarrant and Mrs. Fred Smith, costumed in similar manner, received honorable mention. The three ladies carried out the costume in every detail, even to the wooden shoes, and carried cans of the cleansing powder. The prize was handsome silk parasol. Mrs. Guy Severance and Chas. Holman carried off the honors in the prize waltz, in which seven couples were entered. Each received dozen American Beauty roses. Mrs. W. C. Burnett judged the costumes. All contestants remained masked until after the prizes had been awarded.

The Sheridan Post, January 17, 1908: Masked Ball at Piney Inn – The masquerade ball at the Piney Inn was a success in every sense of the word. A large party of merry awaken attended, and the fun was so continuous that the last of the of the dancers never left before daylight next moring. – The costumes worn by the maskers were unique and attractive, and varied from the, most grotesque to the finest.

The “Indian Princess”, represented by Miss Laura Thompson, deserves special mention, and she not only successfully concealed her identity, but carried out the character of the Indian princess perfectly. Music was furnished by a five piece orchestra, and everybody left thoroughly satisfied with the evenings sport, and voting Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Lamb not only good entertainers, but the “best of good fellows.”

The Semi-Weekly Enterprise, March 13, 1908: Grand Masked Ball – A grand masked ball will be given in the new hall at Carneyville, Wyo., Tuesday. March 17, by the Carney Monarch Social club. We expect a large number from Sheridan. Deitz, Ranchester and Parkman to attend. We assure a good time to all. Prices will be given to the best masked lady and gentleman. Lunch will be served. We have secured the best music that can be had in Sheridan County. We invite all to attend.

Railroads also offered special rates for those going to New Orleans and Galveston for their celebrations.

The Rawlins Republican, February 5, 1891

And this short piece from the Central Wyoming News, Douglas, February 16, 1898 – Mardi Gras New Orleans, Feb. 22nd, 1398. The Gulf Road— U.P.D. & G.R V. — will-sell tickets for this occasion at the very low rate of one fare for the round trip. Tickets will be on sale February 17th, 18th and 19th and good for return until March 5th. Mardi Gras this year, judging from the preparations being made, will be on a grander and’-more elaborate scale than ever before. The Gulf Road offers practically the best train service from Colorado to New Orleans. If you contemplate the trip, please write us relative to sleeping car accommodations, or any other information in connection with the trip. B.L. Winchell, General Passenger Agent. Denver, Colo

Although normally Mardi Gras is associated with New Orleans, many other towns celebrate the day as well with dance and masquerade balls.

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Last modified: February 10, 2024

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