By Molly Igoe
Elm Staff Writer
Chester Gras, the second annual Mardi Gras celebration held in Chestertown, took place on Saturday Feb. 7 from 1-5 p.m. The Community Food Pantry and Peoples Bank of Kent County once again sponsored this mini Mardi Gras celebration, according to an article in the Chestertown Spy.
The parade began at 1 p.m. on High Street near Fountain Park. Associate Professor of French Katherine Maynard said, “There will be roughly 20 different groups represented in the parade, include Student Events Board and Caring for Kids.” This year, according to the Downtown Chestertown Association, nine local restaurants donated food that was used to make gumbo including The Blue Heron Café, Chester River Seafood, The Fish Whistle, Lemon Leaf Café, and Luisa’s Cucina Italiana.
After the parade, there was plenty of entertainment for kids and parents alike, with music by Phil Dutton and the Alligators and the Kent County Middle School Band. A children’s area occupied a large amount of space with activities like face painting and mask making, with assistance from Washington College’s German and French clubs. For the adults, there was a silent auction with gifts that had been donated from local businesses in a heated tent, located between Queen and Court streets.
Proceeds raised during Chester Gras benefit the Backpack Programs in the area, which ensure that children have meals on the weekends when they are not in school. Last year, the event raised $5,000. Karen Willis, who works at the Peoples Bank of Kent County and played a large role in organizing this event said, “We met with Rebecca Lepter, the director of Family and Community Partnership in town, who suggested the Backpack Program because it would help hungry children in the area.”
Many students from Washington College attended the event. Freshman Ashley Escobar said, “I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans and this parade seemed like an awesome way for me to experience Mardi Gras.” Luckily, students at WC who did not attend the parade will have plenty of opportunities to show off their Mardi Gras spirit at the annual Birthday Ball being held Feb. 21, which is Mardi Gras themed this year.
Willis said, “The first Chester Gras came about last year because the president of the Peoples Bank of Kent County really likes New Orleans, and it is a good time of year for a new event.” Maynard said, “I’m excited about the event because it’s meant to capture a bit of the spirit of Mardi Gras that is typical of New Orleans and bring it to Chestertown. It should be a great event to promote town-gown relations, since students and community members alike will be getting together to have a little fun for a good cause.”
Major supporters of this annual parade include the town of Chestertown, Kent County Arts Council, Atlantic Tractor, Mainstay, and Todd’s Body Shop. To make donations that will benefit the Backpack Program, make checks out to Family and Community Partnerships of Kent County. For more information about next year’s Chester Gras, contact Karen Willis at 410-778-3500, or firstname.lastname@example.org.