Did you get your beads on Mardi Gras?


Kent-based band Costley Ct. performs funk tunes for Mardi Gras at Water Street Tavern on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015.

Mark Oprea

A universally colorful celebration around the world — from Italy’s Viareggio to Rio de Janeiro — took its own flavor in Kent on Fat Tuesday. Rather than satirical floats and flame-throwing devilish dancers, Kent’s bars and pubs maintained a Creole spirit through beaded-necklaces and jazz bands.

Mardi Gras, Carnival to international attendees, shipped over to the U.S. on the boats of French Catholics during 17th century, and often coincided as being the day before Ash Wednesday. New Orleans became the undeniable hub of the no-holds-bar festival when the city hosted its first Mardi Gras in 1838. It’s when the famous motto of Mardi Gras came into existence: Lassez les bons temps rouler!

That is: Let the good times roll.

Rolling into Water Street Tuesday night, one would find the seven-piece brassy band Costley Ct., complete with silver trumpet bells and studded suit-coats. One of the singers wore a jester’s hat. Jackie Popovec, of the Youngstown-based rock group The Vindys, made her way up on stage for a heartfelt cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

“They just asked me to come and sing, so I did,” she said, a purple and gold beaded necklace around her neck. “We’re all doing improv tonight.”

Downtown Kent celebrates Mardi Gras from KentWired.com on Vimeo.

And, of course, Mardi Gras isn’t a thing without piles of necklaces — mostly hung last night from the taps of the Zephyr and the Loft. Supplies went down at Bar 145 and the Brewhouse as the midnight crowd made its appearance, among DJs and blues bands. Yet it was at the Water Street Tavern where the first decorations were made. As there were enough beads in stock for Bourbon Street.

Although flashing is a common reaction among krewes and bead-throwers, Kent wasn’t exactly a French Quarter. Nevertheless, the tradition stuck in theory.

“I had all the women in the room ask me, when I handed them beads, ‘Well, what do I have to do for them?” Daniela Morey, a bartender at Water Street Tavern, said. “And I told them, ‘Nothing.”

Dan Friend, manager of the Tavern, said that the Tuesday mix-up of Mardi Gras and Ladies Night had something to do with it.

“We bought unlimited beads for a reason,” Friend said.

Contact Mark Oprea at [email protected].