Mardi Gras RVA sorta started in Cozumel in 2010, on a mermaid expedition trip with fellow ASMP photographer Chris Crumely. It happened to be Carnival while we were there. I fell in love with the floats, costumes, energy, and joy of it all.
Four months later, I had an epiphany: stop dreaming of getting back to Cozumel to be on a float and start a parade right where I live, in Richmond, VA. I called up Rob Petres at Dogtown Dance Theatre where I’d performed in Moment of Flight during the theaters’ inaugural opening. “I want to have a Mardi Gras Parade at Dogtown” I told him. He gathered a few other like-minded people for a meeting where we hashed out ideas that produced the ongoing parade and performances concept that is Mardi Gras RVA.
However, Mardi Gras RVA’s true inception, the real heart of it, comes from New Orleans itself. Living in the French Quarter, I’d ride my bike to work day to day through the CBD (central business district), watching the city slowly transform with bleachers, road blocks, and Krewes taking over the streets. The getting ready for it all was mesmerizing. Driving carless friends for grocery store runs out to the suburbs revealed more, different, styles of getting ready. Trips to the bayou brought about yet a whole new take on Mardi Gras. Never before had I experienced such an enveloping event, in which every group participated and made it their own: rich/poor, post doctorate/street smarts, rural/suburban/urban, black/white, young/old, local/tourists. Mardi Gras was universal.
This sense of community, acceptance, and creative expressions of joy defines Mardi Gras RVA. It is an authentic event. It is, as it should be, a reflection of the heart and soul of Richmond. From our dedicated participants to the creative performers to the snow-hardy vendors, everyone who shows up is in amazing costumes ready to let loose and enjoy. I am very proud & honored to be the visionary leader of this gathering of happy, talented, caring, giving & unique individuals. Laissez le bon temps rouler indeed!!! (French for Let the good times roll.)
Mardi Gras RVA 2015 included the Saturday, February 14, afternoon event with a motorized parade followed by 3 hours of performances inside Dogtown Dance Theatre. We did it all over again on Fat Tuesday, February 17, with a traditional non-motorized event followed 3 hours of performances then shutting down the show with by an after-hours DJ dance party.
Mardi Gras RVA is tremendous outpouring of kindness, produced on the backs of dedicated volunteers, VCU work-study, and Dogtown Dance Theatre’s committed staff. Huge hugs and curtsies to all of our performers & food trucks for showing up in sunny weather or snowy nights. Show them love by supporting their creative endeavors:
Special shout out to Triple Crossing Brewery for donating their fabulous Falcon Smash IPA; for parade participants All the Saints Theater Company for eye-catching masks and flags, PLF for bringing their pirate ship out Richmond Signscapes for donating, Lucille Brown Middle School theater students for participating, River City Magnolias for “swimming”, Carter Anderson, Amy & Tina with Save The Trash for self-appointed parade route clean sweep crew; Dogtown Dance Theatre staff Stacey Guard for diligently working on our first silent auction and raffle during pre- and post-op foot surgery, Heather Bailey for wrangling the VCU work-study gang, Rob Petres and his father Pop for their baby Dogtown Dance Theatre itself; VCU work-study students Aila Castane for being an amazing executive assistant, Giselle Carrillo for set work that pulled the “I heart Mardi Gras RVA” look all together, Lamarr Townsend for his photography and social media skills; Bitsy Buttons for production work of gathering the performers and putting them on at the right times; Kevin DeAvies for his expert lighting talent; Steven Warrick for exciting graphic design work; photographers Dave Parrish, Isaac Harrell, Robert Pfeifer, Joe Ring, Joel Lomnick for so eloquently capturing the events; and Elli Morris stills & motion for taking a major backseat while the true Mardi Gras spirit once again came to life in Richmond, Virginia.