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Fat fun: Mardi Gras in the Mountains brings New Orleans flavor to Red River

Several krewes throw balls featuring live music at various locations as part of Mardi Gras in the Mountains. (Courtesy of Ron Weathers)

Beads, masquerade masks and festive floats with plenty of snow are how Red River celebrates Mardi Gras.

The northern New Mexico town has been celebrating Mardi Gras in the Mountains for more than 25 years. The event is a big hit with locals and brings in people from different parts of the country, including Louisiana, Colorado, Florida and Texas.

“Everybody looks forward to it all year long, and then also the visitors that we get, you know, people from Louisiana and New Orleans that actually leave Mardi Gras and celebrate with us,” said Shelby Werley, executive director of the Red River Chamber of Commerce.

The event begins Thursday, Feb. 20, and ends on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 25. A Krewe Krawl and Glow Stick Parade, which runs down Main Street at 7 p.m. Feb. 20, opens the six-day event. Each night of the Mardi Gras festival features a ball with live music put on by a different krewe.

“We have a bunch of krewes, which is kind of traditional in New Orleans, too,” Werley said. “It’s basically just groups of people who enjoy celebrating Mardi Gras, and we call them a krewe.”

The march ends at the Motherlode Saloon for the Burning of the Tchoupitoulas at 7:30 p.m. The Tchoupitoulas is a cross between Santa Fe’s Zozobra and traditional Mardi Gras, according to Werley.

“It’s kind of a morph between Cajun and more New Mexican culture,” she said. “Basically, you write down your troubles and worries on a piece of paper and toss them into the fire, and that’s supposed to kind of start the celebration off with good juju.”

The popular Drink Making Contest will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21.

“That’s one of the busiest events and most sought-after,” Werley said. “Some of them go more of a comedy or skit show route, and some of them do whole choreographed dance routines, and it’s a fun event to watch.”

The festivities continue on Saturday, Feb. 22, with a children’s parade, Grand Ball and costume contest, Cajun cookoff, Cajun feast and more.

Younger attendees can celebrate Mardi Gras during the Children’s Ball at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Red River Community House.

The Krewe De VooDoo & Krewe De Los Muertos Ball will be held on Monday, Feb. 24, and the festivities wrap up on Tuesday, Feb. 25, with the Pirate Krewe Ball at the Bull O’ the Woods Saloon.

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