Outside the red door to the Allegheny Elks Club, two of Cheryl Capezzuti’s shimmering puppets dance to the quiet street sounds of a Tuesday night in February. Open the red door, and the brass and drums of big band music pour out the door, setting the mood for revelers draped in shiny beads and feather boas, their eyes shadowed by glittery masks. The line for jambalaya and shrimp po’ boys runs to the back of the wood-paneled room. In time, Jack “Johnny Angel” Hunt calls 2016 Northside Mardi Gras King Rick Sebak to the stage to pass over his beads, scepter and crown to his 2017 successor, Randy Gilson of local Randyland fame. As the crowd cheers and cameras flash, Seback reluctantly allows Gilson to pry the crown from his head, and the start of the 2017 Northside Mardi Gras is officially proclaimed.
The Northside Mardi Gras party is part of 70 different events involving 37 businesses throughout two weeks of celebration in the neighborhood, all featuring some kind of Mardi Gras or pre-Lenten theme or special. “Five years ago we had a Fat Tuesday party. Three years ago we had another one and we said, hey, we have something here,” said Northside Leadership Conference Main Street Manager Cody Walters, 36, of Deutchtown, who promotes the neighborhood through promoting businesses and organizes the Deutchtown Music Festival. “Mardi Gras was just an excuse to capture all that, to showcase what the Northside always has: good people, great music, awesome food, fun times.”