Mardi Gras festivities rock the Union

Elena Amesbury

Had you entered the Memorial Union Tuesday night without any idea of what was going on, you would have been stunned by the massive amounts of people and decorations in yellow, green and purple.
Beginning with a registration table, a stack of fake money and a mark on the back of your hand, SOUP put on a Mardi Gras celebration that took over the entire union for the evening.
Riverview Lounge was converted into a casino where prizes were raffled off every hour and a band of locals played classic Dixieland hits.
The grill hosted free hors d’oeuvres and downstairs held mask making, tarot card reading, and handwriting analysis.
At the registration table, each participant received $5,000, which could either be exchanged for a raffle ticket immediately or taken into Riverview to gamble with.
Residence Hall Directors, professors, SOUP volunteers, and even Coach Carner and Nancy Truesdell acted as blackjack dealers.
Jessie Justmann, a junior studio art major whose favorite event was “gambling, baby!” was “happy and shocked” to win a bag of coffee and a travel mug from the raffle.
While the masses gambled, Geriatric Jazz, a band of older local musicians who have been playing at Mardi Gras for the past five years, played in the background.
Downstairs, the Viking Room hosted its own Bacardi Gras for those of age. In the coffeehouse, Derek Dreier led a student band through two hours of music.
Each year the lower level is planned to be more low-key than the upstairs. To this end, Jason Siroky read tarot cards for those interested in their future, and king cake tempted those hopeful to snag a piece with a trinket hidden inside.
Mardi Gras has been hosted on campus by SOUP for the past five years, and before that by a group of student volunteers through the Campus Activities Office.
Planning for the event starts in October because of booking needs, and donations for the raffle come in until the morning of.
In late November, SOUP mails letters to various Appleton businesses to ask for donations for the raffle, and any extra money in the budget goes to buying prizes.
This year’s raffle – with drawings at 9:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and midnight – yielded such prizes as two DVD players, a night’s stay at the Copperleaf Hotel in downtown Appleton, and a portable iPod player.
Claire Gannon, a geology major and member of SOUP, won one of the DVD players in the 9:30 drawing. Her favorite event was the tarot card reading.
When asked if it was accurate, the sophomore laughed and said, “We’ll see.”
SOUP’s Mardi Gras was geared to be a “fun, safe campus event that is free,” explained co-chair of the event Kat Kaszpurenko. It was successful in that aspect, and also because it drew the greatest crowd in years.
This year, BACCHUS went through approximately 800 cups of nonalcoholic beverages, in comparison to a little over 500 in years past.
The Juggling Club made its public debut Tuesday night, and a parade of roving musicians wound their way through campus and into the union every once in a while to entertain the casino-goers with “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
All in all, the Mardi Gras celebration was “incredibly successful,” enthused Kaszpurenko.