Mardi Gras behind the scenes: Prep for McNick’s biggest event a year in the making

The night of Mardi Gras for the 2016-2017 school year takes place on Feb. 6. On this night, students who have helped make McNicholas and their community better places through service  are recognized as members of the court and honor guard. Before any of this can happen, though, there are months of preparation to make it to this point.

Preparation for Mardi Gras occurs a year before it begins. “As soon as Mardi Gras is over we start talking about the theme for next year, sometimes before,” committee member Julie Muething said. Mardi Gras coordinator Bill Losekamp agreed. “We try to get commitments from people [on how they’ll help] at that point,” he said.

“Official prep starts in September,” Muething said, about half a year before Mardi Gras occurs. After this, the committee gets to work. Nominations are made by students in November, then confirmed by teachers. Voting is then done during homerooms sometime in early January. When the votes are tallied and court members announced, the rush to prepare for Mardi Gras begins.

At their opening meeting on the day the court and honor guard are announced, members receive dates and deadlines that include everything from tuxedo measurements to service statements, to callout dance info to family seating. Women of the court submit the colors of their dresses to be paired with their flowers.  It is also during this time that the committee chooses the dress for the queen to wear. Muething said she is constantly on the lookout for a dress for the queen. “Some have been donated, but some are from St. Vincent de Paul, or Goodwill.”

Committee member Mary Beth Sandmann helps to coordinate the art department in designing decorations for Mardi Gras. The stage is “a team effort with the art department,” Sandmann said. Students design the ticket and program covers in class, and Muething and former teacher Michelle Semancik create the program itself.

With almost everything prepared for the dance itself, the busiest time is the week before, specifically, “the Friday and Saturday before the dance, the work preparing goes pretty late into the morning,” committee member John Chadwell said. The banners of previous Mardi Gras dances are hung up on Friday night, and grad Mike Atkins, from the Class of 2002, flies in from Wisconsin to prepare the lights for the stage, and court members work all day Saturday to prepare the space for the pageantry and dance.

“The adults are honored to recognize the students and to facilitate an evening where all the students can have a good time,” Regina Goines said. Former court member Chadwell added, “It’s nice to see the tradition sustained, especially knowing how awesome it is to get that recognition and now seeing kids who deserve it up there.”

Mardi Gras Court members learn how to bow, curtsy, and dance during the first practice one week before the pageant and dance. During the initial practices, court members helped set up the stairs to the stage and the chairs, while also learning how to stand properly during the event. (Photo courtesy of Mary Beth Sandmann.)

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