LaGRANGE — Mardi Gras paraded through the city streets Wednesday night and into the front doors of Mare Sol on Main Street for the second annual Twelfth Night celebration sponsored by Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services.
The event not only showcased the beginning of the Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, but highlighted the organization’s main fundraiser of the year, the fourth annual Behind the Mask Ball.
Behind the Mask is a dinner and dance affair to raise money for all of Twin Cedars’ programs and services and is used as an educational tool for the community. It is also the night the king and queen of the ball are officially crowned for the year. The winners are determined by who raises the most money.
Samantha Link, a public relations representative for Twin Cedars, said in true Mardi Gras style, Twelfth Night highlights the royal court, 20 folks from around the community all competing to be named king and queen of the ball.
“Tonight is more playful and fun. The event really builds camaraderie among the candidates and shows them the support that Twin Cedars has for the candidates and the candidates have for each other,” she explained about Wednesday’s event. “It’s fun to see how spirited the contest really is.”
“It’s the big kickoff,” said Kim Skiff, candidate for queen. “It’s good to have all the candidates together, instead of just being on your own.”
The nominees brought their families, friends, coworkers and supporters to Twelfth Night for an evening of dinner, drinks and live music.
At one point, each of the candidates stood up and told the crowd about their campaign and what Twin Cedars means to them.
“My wife worked at Twin Cedars for years, so I got to witness the benefit and need for the organization and its programs in our community,” said Patton Beall, candidate for king.
Twelfth Night also gave each nominee a chance to size up their competition and kick the contest into high gear.
“It’s a slow start, but I’m gearing up right now,” Beall laughed. “I wrote a jingle with the Twin Cedars mission statement in it because I love to sing.”
Skiff added: “I’m baking chocolate chip pies, and my friends and I are selling them for $25 on Facebook. I’m going to bribe them for votes … and I don’t even like chocolate,” she said as she laughed. “I’m also making chocolate candy arrangements that look like the Mardi Gras masks and I’ll be selling those too.”
While each candidate jokingly plotted on how to win the crown, almost all agreed in the end, Twin Cedars and the children should be the biggest winners of all.
“My goal is for everyone to get votes,” Beall said.
“Or just to beat last year’s goal,” added Skiff.
Link said this year’s crop of candidates was on target to surpass the 2015 goal of $31,000.
“The candidates are doing phenomenal, which is really encouraging,” she stated.
Last year, organizers said the entire event brought in more than $60,000 for Twin Cedars, which was a record amount.
The polls are open for the public to cast ballots for the 2016 king and queen of the Behind the Mask Ball benefitting Twin Cedars. Each vote costs $1.
Voting ends Jan. 25 at noon.
The Behind the Mask Ball is Jan. 30. Tickets for the event are sold out.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.