- Holidays and Celebrations
The Five Best United States Party Events
When: February 17, 2015
The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons. From here, the traditional revelry of "Boeuf Gras," or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies.
On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, and named it "Pointe du Mardi Gras" when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. Bienville also established "Fort Louis de la Louisiane" (which is now Mobile) in 1702. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America's very first Mardi Gras.
In 1704, Mobile established a secret society (Masque de la Mobile), similar to those that form our current Mardi Gras krewes. It lasted until 1709. In 1710, the "Boeuf Gras Society" was formed and paraded from 1711 through 1861. The procession was held with a huge bull's head pushed alone on wheels by 16 men. Later, Rex would parade with an actual bull, draped in white and signaling the coming Lenten meat fast. This occurred on Fat Tuesday.
New Orleans was established in 1718 by Bienville. By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans, but not with the parades we know today. In the early 1740s, Louisiana's governor, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, established elegant society balls, which became the model for the New Orleans Mardi Gras balls of today.
The earliest reference to Mardi Gras "Carnival" appears in a 1781 report to the Spanish colonial governing body. That year, the Perseverance Benevolent & Mutual Aid Association was the first of hundreds of clubs and carnival organizations formed in New Orleans.
By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. Dazzling gaslight torches, or "flambeaux," lit the way for the krewe's members and lent each event an exciting air of romance and festivity. In 1856, six young Mobile natives formed the Mistick Krewe of Comus, invoking John Milton's hero Comus to represent their organization. Comus brought magic and mystery to New Orleans with dazzling floats (known as tableaux cars) and masked balls. Krewe members remained anonymous, and to this day, Comus still rides!
In 1870, Mardi Gras' second Krewe, the Twelfth Night Revelers, was formed. This is also the first recorded account of Mardi Gras "throws."
Newspapers began to announce Mardi Gras events in advance, and they even printed "Carnival Edition" lithographs of parades' fantastic float designs (after they rolled, of course - themes and floats were always carefully guarded before the procession). At first, these reproductions were small, and details could not be clearly seen. But beginning in 1886 with Proteus' parade "Visions of Other Worlds," these chromolithographs could be produced in full, saturated color, doing justice to the float and costume designs of Carlotta Bonnecase, Charles Briton and B.A. Wikstrom. Each of these designers' work was brought to life by talented Parisian paper-mache' artist Georges Soulie', who for 40 years was responsible for creating all of Carnival's floats and processional outfits.
1872 was the year that a group of businessmen invented a King of Carnival, Rex, to preside over the first daytime parade. To honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff, the businessmen introduced Romanoff's family colors of purple, green and gold as Carnival's official colors. Purple stands for justice; gold for power; and green for faith. This was also the Mardi Gras season that Carnival's improbable anthem, "If Ever I Cease to Love," was cemented, due in part to the Duke's fondness for the tune.
The following year, floats began to be constructed entirely in New Orleans instead of France, culminating with Comus' magnificent "The Missing Links to Darwin's Origin of Species," in which exotic paper-mache' animal costumes served as the basis for Comus to mock both Darwin's theory and local officials, including Governor Henry Warmoth. In 1875, Governor Warmoth signed the "Mardi Gras Act," making Fat Tuesday a legal holiday in Louisiana, which it still is.
Like Comus and the Twelfth Night Revelers, most Mardi Gras krewes today developed from private social clubs with restrictive membership policies. Since all of these parade organizations are completely funded by their members, New Orleanians call it the "Greatest Free Show on Earth!"
October 17-26, 2014
Traditionally October has been a slow time for tourism in the Keys, but since its inception, Fantasy Fest® has continually boosted the economy by filling up hotel rooms and inundating local businesses, restaurants, and bars during this time period. The tremendous influx of visitors during the ten days of the festival sustains the local economy until the holiday season begins. Fantasy Fest is committed to extending the time that visitors stay by encouraging the creation of diverse events throughout the entire ten days. The opportunity to show off the imaginative and resourceful spirit that defines the Keys excites participants as well as the thousands that are drawn to the Keys.
Frank Romano, a board member of the Tourist Development Association of Monroe County, Inc. (TDA), and a founding member of Fantasy Fest, gives us a personal introduction into the conception of Fantasy Fest. He shares the early vision of Joe Liszka, President of the TDA, giving us a glimpse of how this good-natured revelry came to be.
"In 1978, on Halloween Day, Joe Liszka asked me to accompany him to the intersection of Front and Duval Streets. He asked me to look up Duval Street and tell him what I saw. "What was I supposed to see?" "No cars moving, no people walking, lots of store fronts boarded up because the retailers take their vacation in this slow season?"
"How is the weather," he asked. "Well, it is a typical beautiful day in Paradise, warm, with bright sunshine." "That's what's wrong," he told me. " Here it is the most beautiful weather day of the season and the town is deserted. Workers are laid off. Business owners have a tough time paying their expenses. It is a disaster season for the Key West economy."
"I understand", I replied, "but what can we do about it?" "We need a fest, a carnival, a celebration, something that will entice people to change our moribund season to one of great fun; a party that will bring many people to understand that this season is one of our best," he replied.
Liszka's creative inspiration was the birth of Fantasy Fest. Now, Halloween is the busiest day of the year with thousands of people visiting our town. Fantasy Fest week produces the most revenue of any week in the year. A moribund season has become our best. Thank you, Joseph Liszka."
The Tourist Development Association of Monroe County, Inc.
The Kentucky Derby
When: May 2, 2015
In 1872, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, traveled to England, visiting the Derby, a famous race that had been running annually since 1780. From there, Clark went on to Paris, France, where in 1863, a group of racing enthusiasts had formed the French Jockey Club and had organized the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamps, which at the time was the greatest race in France. A thoroughbred horse is depicted on the reverse of the Kentucky state quarter
Returning home to Kentucky, Clark organized the Louisville Jockey Club for the purpose of raising money to build quality racing facilities just outside of the city. The track would soon become known as Churchill Downs, named for John and Henry Churchill, who provided the land for the racetrack. Officially, the racetrack was incorporated as Churchill Downs in 1937.
The Kentucky Derby was first run at 1 1⁄2 miles (2.4 kilometres), the same distance as the Epsom Derby. The distance was changed in 1896 to its current 1 1⁄4 miles (2.0 kilometres). On May 17, 1875, in front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 people, a field of 15 three-year-old horses contested the first Derby. Under jockey Oliver Lewis, a colt named Aristides, who was trained by future Hall of Famer Ansel Williamson, won the inaugural Derby. Later that year, Lewis rode Aristides to a second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
Although the first race meeting proved a success, the track ran into financial difficulties and in 1894 the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated with new capitalization and improved facilities. Despite this, the business foundered until 1902 when Col. Matt Winn of Louisville put together a syndicate of businessmen to acquire the facility. Under Winn, Churchill Downs prospered and the Kentucky Derby then became the preeminent stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses in North America.
Derby participants are limited to three-year-old horses. No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Derby without having raced at age two.
Thoroughbred owners began sending their successful Derby horses to compete a few weeks later in the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Racecourse, in Baltimore, Maryland, followed by the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York. The three races offered the largest purse and in 1919 Sir Barton became the first horse to win all three races. However, the term Triple Crown didn't come into use for another eleven years. In 1930, when Gallant Fox became the second horse to win all three races, sportswriter Charles Hatton brought the phrase into American usage. Fueled by the media, public interest in the possibility of a "superhorse" that could win the Triple Crown began in the weeks leading up to the derby. Two years after the term was coined, the race, which had been run in mid-May since inception, was changed to the first Saturday in May to allow for a specific schedule for the Triple Crown races. Since 1931, the order of Triple Crown races has been the Kentucky Derby first, followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. Prior to 1931, eleven times the Preakness was run before the Derby. On May 12, 1917 and again on May 13, 1922, the Preakness and the Derby were run on the same day. On eleven occasions the Belmont Stakes was run before the Preakness Stakes. (Source)
New Year's Eve - Times Square
When: December 31, 2014
Times Square New Years Eve NYC … The biggest night of the year … in the greatest city ... the ball drop celebration broadcast globally to over a billion people. This New Years Eve's Ball Drop in Times Square is celebrating its 100 year anniversary. Times Square welcomes a million revelers every year who dream of being a part of this magical live celebration. (Source)
When: December 14, 2014
The event is described by its organizers as “a nonsensical Santa Claus convention that happens once a year for absolutely no reason.” Critics cite widespread drunkenness and sporadic violence, with Business Insider calling it a "dreaded annual event where frat house expats wreak havoc on the city dressed as the jolly holiday icon." The Los Angeles Times reported that "some see [SantaCon] as a way for people who live in the suburbs to come to the city and ruin the weekend."
It originated in San Francisco in 1994 and has since spread to 44 countries around the world. Events for 2013 are scheduled in 300 cities, including New York City, London, Vancouver, Belfast, and Moscow. The New York SantaCon is the largest, with an estimated 30,000 people participating in 2012. Other events were much smaller and more subdued, with 30 participating in Spokane, Washington.
In New York City, where it has taken place since 1997, it as has come under widespread criticism for rowdiness by participants, with drunken behavior that has disrupted parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and led to calls for the event to be ended and for participant misbehavior to be curbed. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that despite "some rowdy actions by a small handful of people in the past," SantaCon was "an event that we support. It’s what makes New York New York." The 2013 SantaCon was more subdued than previous ones due to an increased police presence, poor weather, and advance coordination with authorities. (Source)