Vail’s mountain-town version of Mardi Gras begins Friday |

Vail’s mountain-town version of Mardi Gras begins Friday

Andrew Harley

With the holy Lenten season looming, one should not pass up the opportunity to dabble in debaucheries through the streets and ski runs of Vail for the inaugural Mardi Gras in the Mountains.

The celebration begins Friday and builds up to Fat Tuesday’s parade.

“As far as we know, there’s never been a formal Mardi Gras celebration in connection with the Town of Vail,” said senior marketing manager for Vail Mountain Christian Knapp.

Many histories exist charting the lineage of Mardi Gras. Some say it dates back to Rome’s famed feast Saturnalia, when masters and slaves exchanged places as part of the New Year’s celebration. Others credit the time period following Europe’s Reformation – in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Perhaps the most popular and fitting tradition is that of Shrovetide, which based itself around Shrove Tuesday and later became known as Fat Tuesday – and the custom of parading an obese ox through the streets of Paris.

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Regardless of Mardi Gras’s origin, Vail is only 600-2,000 years late, and, thankfully so.

“We really wanted to create an event where something happened every day in the four days leading up to Fat Tuesday,” said Knapp.

Jonny Mogambo Band kicks of Vail Mardi Gras in the Mountains opening night (Friday) at Bogart’s Bar and Bistro from 9:30 p.m. until 1:30 in the morning.

Lionshead hosts a Street Party at the base of the gondola from 2-6 p.m. Saturday, while Lil’ Brian and the Zydeco Travelers play. Later in the evening at 7 p.m., Manor Vail in Vail hosts an all-inclusive Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball, and Lil’ Brian and the Zydeco Travelers will also be performing at the ball.

“It’s going to be a very fun, but a very extravagant affair,” said Knapp.

The World’s Highest Low-Country Crawfish Boil occurs from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Eagle’s Nest on Vail Mountain.

“It’s a Southern tradition to do crawfish boils, and we thought we’d have the world’s highest,” said Knapp. “There’ll be a ton of crawfish. We can feed as many as come.”

Monday’s Gumbo Cook-Off culminates at the official Gumbo Hurricane Cook-Off Party at Vendetta’s in Vail at 7 p.m. Seven establishments will be participating in the event, and, those who try all of the gumbos can vote for the best one at Vendetta’s.

“We want people to choose the best gumbo in the valley,” said Knapp. “I think Moe’s Barbecue has an advantage because they’re from the South. They definitely have a leg up from authenticity’s standpoint.”

Vail’s Fat Tuesday marks Mardi Gras’ culmination with a parade through the village from 5-6 p.m. The parade starts at International Bridge, heads up Gore Creek, then up Bridge Street and ends at the Red Lion, where the judges will preside on the patio.

“A lot of different local groups are putting together floats. It’s generally non-motorized, and there’ll be tons of beads,” said Knapp. “We want the outdoor events to be family-friendly, so no “Janet Jacksons.'”

Tap Room and Sanctuary host the benedictory proceedings with a $5 Cajun buffet and music from Tommy Shreve Band.

“It’s a real communitywide event. We’re spearheading the event (at Vail Mountain), but it’s very much been embraced by local establishments and businesses,” said Knapp.

Andrew Harley can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext.610, or at

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