History of Mardi Gras in St. Louis

Photo courtesy of http://www.mardigrasinc.com.

The history of Mardi Gras in St. Louis has a very humble beginning. The modern celebration is said to have begun in 1980 when a man by the name of Hilary Clemens and five of his friends gathered about 100 people together for a mid-winter party at a building Clemens recently purchased in the historic Soulard neighborhood.

The crew marched with instruments, beads and boas up to a small pub called McGurks, which is now one of the most well-known bars in St. Louis. Unfortunately, the group was turned away, sending the parade back home.

More than three decades later, the tradition in St. Louis has exploded into the biggest Mardi Gras party in the United States outside of New Orleans. That building that Clemens gathered his buddies at later became Hilary’s and is now Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar, which does plenty of business during the Mardi Gras celebration.

The festival is of course much more organized than it was when Clemens’ crew made its famous march. The city organizes two major Mardi Gras parades: the Grande Parade and the Barkus Pet Parade. The Grande Parade features floats built by krewes that toss candy and beads to spectators. The Barkus Pet Parade draws hundreds of costumed dogs on their way to the Wiener Dog Derby — the longest-running Dachshund Derby in America.

Celebrating Mardi Gras has also turned into a more-than month-long event starting with 12th Night the first week in January. Favorite local events include the Snowman Softball Tournament; Wine, Beer and Whiskey Taste; the Lumiere Place Cajun Cook-Off and Tony Chachere’s Crawfish Boil, Mardi Gras 5K and of course the Light up the Night Fat Tuesday Parade in downtown St. Louis.

What started out as a moderate gathering of friends has transformed into St. Louis’ biggest annual party!

At Prudential Select Properties, we’re experts on all things St. Louis. If you’re ready to buy or sell your home, please class us at (314) 835-6000 or visit www.discoverstl.com today!

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