Kick off your shoes and dance Mardi Gras style

Published 1:05 pm Thursday, January 19, 2017

Get ready to don your fancy hat and get out on the dance floor — Mardi Gras season is coming and it is making an early stop in Port Arthur.

The Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary will be hosting their Annual Mardi Gras Zydeco Dance from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Jan. 21 at the KPC Hall #182 on 515 Savannah Ave in Port Arthur. Presale tickets are $10 and admission at the door is $12. The event is BYOB.

“It’s been going on for a while,” William “James” Carter, one of the principal organizers, said of the dance. “It’s been going since the 1980s.”

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Carter described the annual dance as having taken place first on 7th Street at the Antoine building for several years, then the Sacred Heart Hall on Washington Avenue, and finally at their own hall on Savannah.

“We purchased the old cafeteria hall at St. Mary’s,” Carter said. “Now we don’t have to rent anymore. Bishop Guillory allowed us to purchase that.”

According to Carter, they have managed to pack the hall regardless of wherever they held the Mardi Gras Dance.

“Every year since we had it at Antoine, we’re used to seeing it packed,” Carter said. “We still pack the hall.”

The Annual Mardi Gras Dance by the Knights has a history of raising money for charities.

“We used to have a contest with the king and queen to see who raised the most money for the charities that we supported. That’s what I truly like about this,” Carter said. “Our ability to support our local and national church.”

And, according to Carter, while the contest between the king and queen may no longer be held, the charitable spirit is still there.

“We not only put aside money for nursing homes, but we use it to buy supplies for those that are there,” Carter said. “We put forth donations to national and state scholarship funds. We also work with food drives and state initiatives like sickle cell anemia and the kidney foundation.”

When speaking of the community response, Carter appeared positive.

“It has been very strong. Every year we have packed the building to capacity.”

Carter said their group is one of the 18 organizations that help sponsor the major Mardi Gras celebration.

J.J. Caillier and the Zydeco Knockouts will provide music for the event.

“We have a great band coming from Louisiana, J.J. Caillier,” Carter said. “His wife is a native of Port Arthur and he has been one of the bands that have performed for us over several years.”

Carter spoke well of Zydeco music and shared some of his thoughts on its culture.

“It’s fast-paced dance,” Carter said. “The lyrics are truly cultural. It’s about Cajun music and French people from Louisiana. It’s still in their blood.

“It’s exciting to see people dance with Zydeco,” Carter said. “Music has always been in my life. My mother was from Louisiana (and) my dad was a musician.”

According to Carter, dressing up in costume for the dance is not only allowed; it is encouraged.

“We encourage people to dress up in costumes,” Carter said. “The place will be decorated in Mardi Gras.”

Carter said he would have a Mardi Gras vest with a mask and hat on for Saturday’s event.

In extending an invitation to the community, Carter said their group is inclusive of anyone who wants to stop by and come in to join them.

“There will be umbrella dances. People, mainly ladies, decorate the umbrellas and do the dance with them; they do the first round with a white handkerchief and encourage the audience to come join them on stage.”