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ND plans Mardi Gras meals, parties

Meghan Wons | Tuesday, February 20, 2007

You don’t have to travel to New Orleans to celebrate “the feast before the fast” today, since Notre Dame is bringing some Cajun culture to campus for Mardi Gras.

French for “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras is the day of celebration before Ash Wednesday, a solemn day which marks the beginning of the Lenten fasting season.

If you want to partake in feasting, you can take a trip South – to South Dining Hall – where chefs have been busy preparing for the annual Fat Tuesday feast.

South Dining Hall will serve some Cajun favorites for dinner tonight, including rum raisin bread pudding, Louisiana red beans and rice, jambalaya with chicken and ham and a host of indulgent desserts.

If Cajun food isn’t preferable, the Student Union Board (SUB) is sponsoring an event called “Multi-Cultural Mardi Gras” from 8 to 10 p.m. in LaFortune’s Sorin Room. They will serve Chinese food from Golden Dragon, Mexican food from Hacienda and Indian food from Star of India.

Beth Melia, director of programming for SUB, said she hopes students enjoy the free food and will come “to eat up, celebrate Fat Tuesday and celebrate life.”

For those 21 and older, South Bend’s Linebacker Lounge is commemorating Mardi Gras with a Cajun style buffet that “will begin at 11 in the morning and last until the food runs out,” Linebacker bartender, waitress and “jack of all trades” Paula Walsh said.

“We’ll have everything from shrimp au gratin to jambalaya to whiskey cake and there will be all kinds of drink specials,” she said.

While many students got a taste of the New Orleans nightlife while in town for the Sugar Bowl, some returned to experience one of the most famous Mardi Gras celebrations in the world this weekend.

Senior Lucy Summerville left Thursday night around 10 to make the 18-hour road trip to New Orleans. Summerville said there were eight girls and three guys in two vans and they all took turns driving in shifts to make it to New Orleans around 3 p.m. Friday.

Summerville said she and her friends got a taste of the French Quarter at a huge parade on Saint Charles Street Friday night.

“Contrary to popular belief, you don’t really have to do anything for the beads. They just kept throwing them off of the floats and we collected quite a bunch,” Summerville said. She said she and a friend attended a ball “with thousands of people” Saturday evening in the Superdome – the site of Notre Dame’s Sugar Bowl loss. She said American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, Journey and Styx all performed at the ball.

“The drive was worth every minute of our time in New Orleans,” Summerville said of her Mardi Gras experience.

Senior Thomas McCall also traveled to Louisiana this past weekend, but he bypassed Bourbon Street for his hometown of Lake Charles to partake in a more traditional, historic Mardi Gras celebration – a debutante ball.

McCall and seven of his Notre Dame friends made the approximately 1,100 mile drive on Thursday night and returned back to South Bend in time for class Monday morning at about 6:30 a.m., McCall said.

McCall said he and his friends experienced “a very traditional Mardi Gras celebration, not the touristy Mardi Gras” that people usually picture when they think of the holiday.

They attended a crawfish boil on Friday night and got dressed up in tuxedos on Saturday night to serve as escorts for some of the town’s young women who made their debuts at the ball.

He said it was a great time and on Monday afternoon he joked that he “planned to take a 25-hour nap” to recover from the road trip.