Second annual Mardi Crawl brings New Orleans to downtown Kent

A desk covered in beads and passes for the Mardi Crawl event are ready for patrons at the Venice Cafe March 2, 2019.

Jorden Shevel

The bars of Kent turned green, purple and gold for this year’s second annual downtown Mardi Crawl, as Main Street Kent partnered with ABITA Brewing Company out of New Orleans to bring a feel of the French Quarter to downtown Kent.

Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years as a celebration of spring and fertility, and religious aspects eventually became woven within. The first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville docked their ships in what is now New Orleans, according to They celebrated finding new land and named the spot Point du Mardi Gras. The last day of Carnival season is “Fat Tuesday,” which is celebrated the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

As time passed, New Orleans added customs to the holiday to turn it into what it is today. Starting in the 1800s, people dressed up in colorful outfits, beads and masks to dance around the streets. The decorated street floats and torch-lit processions soon followed.

Every year, people fill the streets of New Orleans to celebrate a piece of history, but the celebration has also spread across the world, like Canada, Germany and Brazil, which also host carnivals with similarities to Mardi Gras.

This year’s event took attendees around downtown to sample the different bars Kent has to offer with a themed bar crawl. The crawl started at the Venice Café where event passes could be picked up from 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

After attendees picked up their passes, they headed off to the participating bars, including Ray’s Place, Venice Cafe, Franklin Hotel Bar, Water Street Tavern, Euro Gyro, Panini’s, Bricco, Barflyy, Dominick’s Pub, Treno and 157 Lounge.

Mardi Crawlers could be seen all night traveling in packs from bar to bar with beads and shot glasses around their necks, laughing and joking as they caught up with old friends or made new ones.

“We have seen some former people that we knew and been around to a few bars,” said Courtney Irwin, a Kent State alumni.” We just want to hang out with each other and catch up. Going around to all the old places we used to go to when we were younger is really cool.”

With the large number of Mardi Crawl participants hopping from bar to bar, downtown Kent saw plenty of action.

“I’ve noticed a lot more people than usual out for this time on a Saturday night,” said Ryan Hallbauer, a junior sociology major. “Kent is such an awesome town, and it’s cool that an event like this can show it off.”

One of the popular locations on the Mardi Crawl was Barflyy, the retro bar/arcade that opened up in early December 2018. They offered “Purple Haze” on tap by ABITA Brewing Company for $5 as a Mardi Crawl special.

“It has been really fun so far,” said Amanda Cleavenger, a resident of Windham. “We have been going around to all the different spots.”

Despite the Mardi Crawl serving as a way for people near and far to connect over Kent’s decorated bars and themed drinks, the crawl helped downtown Kent businesses get some attention.

“It’s great to be apart of events like this and events in the future,” said Shane Havel, manager at Barflyy. “I think it’s a great opportunity for all the businesses in Kent to come together and be apart of a community event.”

Jorden Shevel covers business. Contact him at [email protected].