Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Fairport Presents 'Mardi Gras' Program Tonight

Service to the community has been a time-honored tradition in the Village of Fairport.  Tonight at 7pm in the Harding High Auditorium, this spirit of activism will be featured as the fourth installment of the bicentennial lecture takes place.  The topic is the Mardi Gras, a 'one of a kind' event that had its origins in 1938 and has been an annual event since 1941.  Not only will the lecture highlight this 'Slice of Americana' but those who come thirty minutes earlier will be able to partake in some Mardi Gras contests or purchase some FHHS bicentennial issue calendars, t-shirts, and keychains.

                                              Mardi Gras - A Retrospect

The Village of Fairport's Mardi Gras takes place on the shores of Lake Erie.  It is more than a few days of gala festivities, parades, queen pageants, contests, amusement rides and games.  It is unique.  It is 'one of a kind.'  It is a strictly local event that has maintained its original formula of allocating dollar proceeds to causes  that benefit the community. Revenues accruing have been disbursed to beach erosion efforts, assisting the 'Skippies' bantam football program, donating to local civic organizations, school projects, fire and police equipment et al.

The most significant event in the birth of the Mardi Gras was a 1938 Street Party to celebrate the paving of Chesnut Street.  The first Mardi Gras which was held on July 4, 1939, was an outgrowth of Fairport Civic Club Street Parties and Water Carnivals dating back to 1925 and 1934 respectively.  At the urging of residents, Mayor John O. Rendrick was asked to start an annual Fourth of July celebration in the village.  On April 22, 1941 the work of this event committee attained Articles of Incorporation status and the Mardi Gras era had begun.  Hoping for a modest start, the first event swelled to in excess of 10,000 attendees.  Programs that first year featured the Diamond Band, USCG capsize drills, softball games, a parade, a Mentor Harbor Yacht Club fleet parade and many other contests and family events.  July 4-8, 2012 will continue this time-honored tradition as amusement rides, a parade featuring the Fairport Harbor Historical Society lighthouse foghorn and Lake Metroparks Horse-drawn wagon, and a return of the boat parade promise to make this one tank trip to Lake County's hidden gem in Fairport a memorable experience.

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