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MRC brings "Fat Tuesday" to Commerce

By Justin Cheatham
On March 9, 2011

Though Commerce, Texas is about 500 miles from New Orleans, La., the Mardi Gras celebration at the Morris Recreation Center on March 8 had the traditional sights, sounds and tastes of Bourbon street.

Mardi Gras means "fat Tuesday" in French and marks a final day of partying before Ash Wednesday in catholic tradition. The event was hosted by Campus Recreation and the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. Heading the operation was junior Demetrius Holmes from Kappa Alpha Psi and senior Sarah Cunningham from Campus Recreation. Holmes said that they were pleased with the level of attendance and how the performance of the entertainers.

"It's a new experience," sophomore Daniel Greenfield said. "I have never been to one here in Commerce, so it's definitely an experience in and of itself. And I haven't had crawfish in a while, so it gives a personal touch to it."

Mardi Gras means "fat Tuesday" in French and is the precursor to Lent, the period from Ash Wednesday through Easter when Catholics give up a favorite food or drink to honor Jesus' 40 days in the desert with similar temptations.

"They wanted Cajun food, a Mardi Gras theme, so we supplied them with boiled crawfish, boiled red potatoes, corn, gumbo, boudin, red beans and rice," chef Bill Wyatt said. "Kind of your basic Mardi Gras Cajun fare."

Wyatt runs a Cajun restaurant in Greenville, Texas; however, he learned to cook authentically on the coast.

"My brother and I grew up along the coast down around Lake Charles and spent months through the summer on fishing and shrimping boats and just kind of grew up in the woods," Wyatt said. "We are actually lumbermen by trade, but we started cooking because the lumber business went bad. We decided that since everybody tells us we cook good, that we would do a lot of big party stuff. We would have liked to put on a little bit bigger fare, but we were operating within the budget and I think it came out well."

The food was not the only reason the gym in the MRC was packed with students and locals. A live band played Zydeco music to entertain the guests, and the organizers had carnival style games around the edges of the gym. They also worked in crafts like the Mardi Gras white mask, decorated by students in the traditional purple, green and gold. The most popular entertainment of the night was the fire-breathing juggler.

"I have accumulated the skills over the years, beginning with juggling," juggler David Slick said. "About 13 years ago I saw a juggling show at my church and that got me obsessed with it. I practiced, practiced, practiced and in high school I became really obsessed with it. I would practice before school, during school, after school as much as I could and that's when I started attempting world records. I hold two right now, I juggled four objects for over two hours and I juggled three objects non-stop for over 12 hours."

Slick later went beyond juggling traditional objects to flaming torches, and he even breathed fire.

"After juggling for a few years and getting really stinking good at it, I saw another juggler performing at a July Fourth event with fire and immediately wanted to do that," Slick said. "I Googled it, found a supplier of juggling torches, bought the first set I saw and immediately started practicing. Every night when it got dark, I would be outside juggling them. Its an exciting new element."

A&M-Commerce women's basketball captain Mattilyn McIntyre attended the event as she rests after a long season.

"It's amazing how they got everything together and had a little Mardi Gras in Commerce, Texas of all the places," McIntyre said. "Usually, during basketball season, I would be somewhere studying or practicing but this is the first time I have gotten out and mingled with everybody. It's pretty cool."

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