In preparation for the Lenten season’s 40 days and 40 nights free from vice and sin, students and local residents are getting their fill of naughty activities before Ash Wednesday.
Mardi Gras activities this year range from good, clean fun to outright debauchery with events planned on campus, in church and in downtown Santa Barbara.
The UCen is celebrating its second annual Mardi Gras festival, “Winter Carnaval,” this Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Planned activities include magicians, jugglers, caricature art, palm readings and Brazilian music.
A free live concert by Lula and Afro-Brazil, sponsored by Coca-Cola, will also take place from 4 to 6 p.m.
“Most of the UCen employees will be in the spirit, wearing hats and beads,” Gary Lawrence, assistant UCen director, said.
Lawrence said the UCen staff will hand out over 5,000 Mardi Gras necklaces.
“People got into the spirit last year,” he said. “I saw people wearing beads all over campus.”
Religious organizations in Santa Barbara will also celebrate the festival. St. Mark’s Catholic Church will host an annual pancake dinner Tuesday night before Ash Wednesday. Father Joe Scott, the parish priest, said he is looking forward to the celebration.
As for events not sponsored by the church, the father said he had minor concerns.
“In some places, it has become a time for a lot of excess,” he said. “Anything spiritually, morally or physically harmful” is something the church would not condone.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday. Lent is a period of fasting, originally focused on the exclusion of foods that are high in fat, such as eggs, meat and butter. During the Middle Ages, the feast before the fast turned into an annual celebration of excess called Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday.”
Several State Street bars are hosting Mardi Gras celebrations of a less pious nature.
Sharkeez club manager Brian Dunstan said his bar has planned Mardi Gras themes for last Saturday, today and Tuesday, including live bands and Brazilian drinks.
The largest celebration was Saturday, Dunstan said, when the bar was filled to a maximum capacity of around 300. A “Queen of Mardi Gras” beauty pageant paid a $100 prize to the winner.
James Landon, an employee of Q’s Sushi-A-Go-Go, said that although they would not have an official Mardi Gras theme on Tuesday, many characteristics of the celebration would still be incorporated. Every Tuesday is usually large due to ’80s night, but Landon said he is expecting larger crowds because of Mardi Gras.
“It’s gonna be huge for sure,” Landon said.
Q’s will be handing out colorful beads, and Dunstan said they are expecting lewd acts of exposure in conjunction with the occasion.
“I’ve been here three years, and I’ve seen [nudity] every time, so I would expect to see it again this year,” he said.