A Mardi Gras parade with a purpose: We have the beads, you bring the beans

By  | January 27, 2018 | Filed under: News

ATHENS-Seven years ago, Athens State University Art Professor Gail Bergeron challenged her art sculpture students to help bring Mardi Gras to Downtown Athens.


The New Orleans native created a block party where students, dubbed the Athens State University Artheads, created head pieces based on a parade theme and encouraged the community to march, catch and throw beads and enjoy the Mardi Gras tradition.


The Mardi Gras Block Party and Parade has grown and includes a collaboration with Athens Arts League and Athens High School Dixieland Band. This year, the party includes a parade with a purpose.


“I wanted to include floats, and during at Athens Arts League meeting, we discussed getting shopping carts, which led to inviting the community to come decorate carts, push them in the parade and collect canned food for our food bank,” Bergeron said. “We have the beads, you bring the beans.”


The Mardi Gras Block Party and Parade is Tuesday, Feb. 13, in Downtown Athens with activities starting at 5:30 p.m. and the parade starting at 6:30 p.m. Spectators are encouraged to bring canned beans or other canned food to put in the shopping cart floats. The Artheads and Athens Arts League will donate the items collected to the food bank at Limestone County Churches Involved.


“Gail enjoys having fun, and she and her art students have helped establish a free community celebration that grows each year,” Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said.


Lowe’s is among the stores donating use of shopping carts. On Feb. 8-10, groups that want to adopt one of the 10 shopping carts can go to High Cotton Arts at 103 W. Washington St. to decorate. This year’s theme is “Things That Fly.”


“Athens Arts League is doing a cart, and ours will be a tribute to Julie the Pig and will include wings so she can be an example of ‘when pigs fly,’” said Athens Arts League board member Holly Hollman. “Since this is the city’s bicentennial, we thought it was also a fun way to celebrate a unique story in our city’s history.”


In the 1980s, the city fathers wanted to run Julie out of Athens because her owner was violating the city ordinance regarding farm animals. The fight to keep Julia in the city limits made her the city’s unofficial mascot and led to her becoming queen of the Athens Christmas Parade. Her photograph was in newspapers and on television, not just locally, but nationwide. In one photograph, she is sipping Sun-Drop from a can as her owner holds it to her lips.


In addition to the shopping cart floats, the block party will include a free Mardi Gras mask making craft and wagon decorating at High Cotton Arts, and the International Crane Foundation and bead making booths at Athens State’s Center for Lifelong Learning. The Limestone County Courthouse will display Mardi Gras colors for the parade that will kick off 6:30 p.m. in front of the center. The parade will include the carts, Artheads and Athens High School’s Dixieland Band. Family friendly groups are welcome to participate.


For more information about adopting a cart or participating, email Gail Bergeron at Gail.Bergeron@athens.edu.



High Cotton Arts and the Center for Lifelong Learning will accept donations of Mardi Gras beads now through Feb. 13 to use during the event. Organizers will use the beads for decoration and to throw to spectators.


Mardi Gras Block Party Event Line-up


High Cotton Arts, 103 W. Washington St.

5:30-6:30 p.m.

Free Mardi Gras mask making craft for children

Free wagon decorating for children who want to participate in the parade

Pickup location for decorated shopping carts


Athens State University Center for Lifelong Learning, 121 S. Marion St.

5:30-6:30 p.m.

International Crane Foundation information booth

Free bead making station


March with the Artheads and Athens High Dixieland Band

6:30 p.m. in front of the Center for Lifelong Learning

Will march on Marion and Washington streets

Theme: Things That Fly

Bring canned beans or other canned good to put in the shopping cart floats for donation to the LCCI food bank.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip The Drive Service One P&K Western Wear Dynamic Staffing
306 Barbecue Champy's OTR Ichiban
Designers Graphics

The Quad-Cities Daily