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Mardi Gras is early this year. In 2017, Fat Tuesday arrived on Feb. 28. A few weeks shouldn't make much difference in terms of celebrating before the obligations associated with the penetential season of Lent. But this year a price was paid with nasty weekend weather--a dreary, drizzly Saturday, and a bone-chilling Sunday.

That didn't stop Arkansas' capital city from hosting a couple of lively neighborhood-friendly parades. And attendance was robust.

The all-day rain and fog had little effect on the SoMa Parade and Festival on Saturday afternoon that started at East 24th Street and progressed along Main to 12th Street. Residents of the South Main Street community lined the sidewalks, many of them clad in Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green, to catch beads and candy tossed by parade participants that included acrobats, jugglers and stilt walkers from Arkansas Circus Arts, a hilariously ridiculous truck mounted on eight-foot-high tires from Carter Off-Road Park in Bryant, and a bunch of radio station folks--including Danny-Joe Crofford, who was holding, not playing, his precious Purple Symbol guitar custom-made for the late Prince--as the Purple One's music blared from speakers on homemade floats. Dogs barked, local beers and eats were on offer, and a beard and mustache competition was staged. Everybody got wet. Everybody had a good time.

Then Sunday followed through with the second annual Barkus on Main dog parade. It was windy, overcast and 33 degrees at 2 p.m., which resulted in a fair amount of howling from human participants. But the dogs that were entered in the parade, dressed in fanciful Mardi Gras costumes, didn't seem to mind the cold as they wiggled their way from Seventh Street north on Main to Fourth Street.

Critical observers on the sidewalks included more dogs than people. Since the majority of them appeared to be Labradoodles with thick, woolly coats, they fared better than short-haired breeds (lots of Corgis) and two-leggers who didn't dress for the occasion. Combating the cold was live music, a beer garden and hurricane station, a crawfish boil, gumbo, and plenty of beads. Many fought the chill by holding their dogs to take advantage of canine warmth.

Still, it was a fine, homespun festival, and Little Rock deserves credit for creating a unique version of Carnival. Let the good times roll!

Editorial on 02/13/2018

Print Headline: A chilly, cheery Mardi Gras

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