By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor
Locals can still celebrate Mardi Gras with a day and night alternative
For the last 24 years, San Diego has had one of — if not the — largest annual Mardi Gras celebrations outside of New Orleans, drawing nearly 10,000 people to the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter for a massive block party and parade on the Saturday prior to Fat Tuesday every February.
This year, however, Gaslamp residents and business owners will be taking a breather, while the producer, McFarlane Promotions, Inc., puts the large-scale event on a one-year hiatus.
Laurel McFarlane — whose company, along with Tickled Pink Productions, has been the event’s co-producer since 2014 — said that the break will pay off significantly.
“We have recently formed collaborations with some experienced groups that we feel are going to bring a great new energy to the event and make the parade and festival components really spectacular,” said McFarlane, who also acted as event coordinator during the two decades the Gaslamp Quarter Association produced Mardi Gras between 1994-2014.
“To cultivate those partnerships and have time to make this event everything it should be, we felt we needed a full year to plan,” she said. “We look forward to bringing something really special back to the Gaslamp Quarter in 2019.”
This is good news to Downtown, since other neighborhoods, citing growing costs, are looking instead to scale down their Mardi Gras events this year, including nearby Hillcrest, which is having a nighttime “Bus Stop Party Hop” event in lieu of their normal block party.Despite the short hiatus, there will still be much to do and celebrate in the Gaslamp Quarter this month when “Mardi Gras Beads, Bites and Booze Tour” — an alternative event, which originally had its debut in 2017 — takes place Saturday, Feb. 10, from 1–5 p.m.
Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the day of event, and include up to 20 New Orleans-inspired bites and 20 carnival-style booze sips from participating businesses throughout the reaches of the Gaslamp Quarter and beyond.
The Field, Analog, Tin Roof, Ciro’s Pizza, El Chingon, Havana 1920, Altitude Sky Lounge, Coyote Ugly and Spike’s Seafood Grill are just a few of the restaurants that are on the tour. With 2,500 expected to attend, it is certain to be an eventful but more low-key way of honoring Fat Tuesday.
An after party, dubbed Carnival of Colors and co-produced by the local “krewe” Brazilian Productions, starts at 4 p.m. and will allow revelers to continue their evening with a Carnival-style theme party that will feature music, dancing and entertainment.
“The Carnival of Colors After Party has no end time, so attendees can keep the party going as long as they like,” McFarlane said.
McFarlane also said that the inaugural Beads, Bites and Booze Tour event was a “huge success,” and she shared with San Diego Downtown News that one attendee from last year recently gushed on her Facebook page, calling the event the “best money [she] ever spent on a ticket,” and “a must” attend.
Costumes are encouraged and those who make their way through the self-guided tour will collect Mardi Gras-style beads at every stop from each of the participating venues. Those who collect a minimum of 10 sets of beads will be given a special white bead necklace, which will grant them entrance to the after party.
The cost of the tour — which includes the after party for the tenacious — is half the price of a general admission ticket to the block parties of years’ past, and by participating you will also help local merchants.
“Attendees [of the Beads, Bites and Booze Tour] can still enjoy the Gaslamp Quarter at night by staying for the after party or visiting another establishment, but we felt that by holding the event in the day we were supporting the local merchants and providing additional business for them,” McFarlane said.
To learn more about participating restaurants and purchase tickets, visit bit.ly/2BnW6aV.
— Reach Morgan M. Hurley at firstname.lastname@example.org.