She passed away in August 2013, said Mardi Gras Co-Chair Marlene Gagnon. The Mardi Gras Ball in her honor is Feb. 22 this year at St. Ann's Arts and Cultural Center, 84 Cumberland St., 5:30 to 11 p.m. could be a big one, with five Mardi Gras Queen contestants and more on the way.
This year's contestants for Mardi Gras Queen are Brittney Croteau, Carla Faria, Amanda Girard, Sheylon Lawson and Debbie Wesley Pitochelli. They'll pit their Mardi-Gras raffle ticket-selling prowess against each one another, with the seller of the most tickets winning the title of Queen.
The winner presides over Mardi Gras and will unmask King Jace XX whose identity has been kept a secret until Dave Richards of radio station WOON releases the clues inviting the public to guess who this well known “mysterious monarch” is behind the disguise.
Raffle tickets are $1 each and will be entered into a drawing for four prizes on the night of Mardi Gras. First prize is $300 in cash; second prize is for three shows at the Stadium Theatre (2 tickets for each show); third prize is a gift certificate for Pilgrim House Inn, Newport, R. I. and fourth prize a $50 gift certificate to River Falls Restaurant in Woonsocket. Proceeds from the ticket sales help offset expenses for the celebration.
As for entertainment and food, Jeff Gamache & Runaway Train, along with the local zydeco band Slippery Sneakers, will provide the entertainment for the evening. A full Cajun buffet, catered by Gary McLaughlin, will be set out for hungry revelers.
In its heyday, the city's week-long celebration was dubbed "Mardi Gras of the North," with a parade and festivities that brought in visitors from across New England. The tradition gradually died down, but was revived in 1995 with the help of NRICA. From 1995 to 2005, three to five venues offered various bands and menus.
But loss of grant funding and a downed economy during the later half of the decade nearly destroyed the celebration. For several years, the queens were simply chosen by the king because few contestants stepped forward.
In 2011, ten contestants participated in Mardi Gras, breathing new life into the celebration, which expanded to two venues. This year the celebration is back to one spot, but additional contestants are welcome, so there's a chance to break 2011's record. "We're looking for more," said Gagnon. She said Jackie Boudreau, Chair of the contest and the 2012 Queen, has leads a few more women who may get into the running. Aspiring Mardi Gras Queens can enter the contest by calling Boudreau at 401-769-1099.
You can buy Mardi Gras Ball tickets directly by calling Lorraine Cloutier at 401-762-9072. Advance tickets are $30 Limited tickets may be sold at teh door for $35. For more information, visit NRICA.com.