Mardi Gras in Little Switzerland


words: Marla Cantrell
Images: courtesy Eureka Springs CAPC


Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is often called the Little Switzerland of the Ozarks. This mountain town, with its narrow, winding streets, Victorian architecture, one-of-a-kind shops and historic hotels, lives up to the name. But this month, the Carroll County town of 2,000 puts on its Mardi Gras mask and celebrates the season.


During February, there are parades and parties. This year’s theme is the Roaring Twenties, and there are balls galore. Rod McGuire, who’s in charge of the King Cake Ball on Fat Tuesday, describes three of the events, saying you have the choice of the formal “hair up” Coronation Ball, the relaxed “hair down” Jokers Ball, and the King Cake Ball, which falls somewhere in between.


At almost every event, there will be Second Line dancing. This tradition can be traced to New Orleans in the 1800s, where Jazz Funerals were often held. The family would walk behind a horse-drawn hearse, with a jazz band behind them. Following the band, were friends and other mourners, often carrying parasols, creating the Second Line.


Once the deceased had been buried, trumpets would sound and the jazz band would play happier tunes. The practice honored the dead, celebrating their ascension to Heaven. The Second Line would march and dance, a tradition that has now seeped into other ceremonies in the South, such as weddings, parties, sporting events, even retirement celebrations.


Today, the Second Line dance happens at almost every Mardi Gras event in the town. Want to join in the fun? Here’s how.


February 4, 1-3pm

Taste of N’Awlins

The Grand Central Hotel and Taverne

37 North Main Street

$8, pay at the door

Want to feel like you’re in New Orleans without stepping out of Arkansas? Head to the Grand Central Hotel and Taverne for hot beignets, café au lait, and shrimp gumbo shots. A jazz trio will be playing the music of Mardi Gras, and the Royal Court will be on hand for you to meet.

While there, take a little time to enjoy the Grand Central Hotel, the oldest one in Eureka Springs. It was built in 1883, restored to its Victorian glory, and is a sight to behold.


February 8, 5:30pm

Umbrella Decorating 

Eureka Live Underground Video Dance Bar and Beer Garden

35 North Main

Adults only, free


You don’t want to show up at Mardi Gras without a fancy umbrella. Here’s your chance to have the best one ever. All supplies are provided. Be sure to add all the glitter and pizzazz you want. Afterward, there will be a Second Line dance to show off your handiwork.


February 16, 6-9pm

ArtiGras – Palette to Palate

1905 Basin Park Hotel

12 Spring Street



You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy ArtiGras; the talented Marlene Gremillion will be on hand to guide you. Paint, paintbrushes, and canvases are provided. The ticket price includes your first glass of wine, there will be a cash bar, and all the fun will take place in the sixth-floor lobby of the 1905 Basin Park Hotel, another historic wonder in Eureka Springs. It’s recommended you call ahead for tickets. Proceeds benefit the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.


February 17, 6pm

Coronation Ball

Crescent Hotel Crystal Ballroom

75 Prospect Avenue



The Coronation Ball is one of the premiere events of Mardi Gras, and tickets go quickly. This year’s Royal Court will be on hand, and the menu includes dishes like Crawfish Boudin Balls with Remoulade Sauce, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, Voodoo Catfish, Chicken Carnivale, and Flambéed Bananas Foster Cheesecake. There will be champagne toasts, live music, and lots of dancing.



February 18, 6pm

Lights and Sound Parade

Spring and Main Streets

This parade will be filled with lights everywhere, on people, floats, cars, dancers, bands, you name it. Crowds gather along the streets to watch and collect the Mardi Gras beads that are tossed to onlookers. There will also be another chance to Second Line dance. Afterward, there will be the Black Light Ball. Check website for details.


February 24, 6pm

Jokers Masquerade Ball

Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center

207 West Van Buren

$30 individual tickets; $250 for table of 10


Costumes are required for the Jokers Masquerade Ball. The theme this year is The Great Gatsby and The Roaring Twenties. Masks are encouraged so that you’ll get the full effect of a Mardi Gras party. Terri and the Executives will be playing a variety of music. There will be a N’Awlins inspired buffet with lots of heavy hors d’oeuvres. After dinner, enjoy a slice of King Cake.


February 25, 7pm

Mayor’s Ball: Red Carpet Masquerade

1905 Basin Park Hotel

$35 reserved ticket; $40 at the door

The theme of this ball is The Great Gatsby, and Mayor Butch Berry will be the host. Dress up in your finest 1920s gear, head to the 1905 Basin Park Hotel, and get ready for a night of fun. The Downtown Livewires will be performing, there will be appetizers, a cash bar, and Second Line dancing, of course. Reservations are recommended.

DSC_0072February 25, 2pm

Eureka Gras Costume Day Parade

Spring and Main Streets

This themed parade goes through downtown Eureka Springs. Lots of floats, music, people dressed in costumes, and animals whose owners bring them along for the event. Mardi Gras beads will be thrown, bands turn out, and dancers show up to make the parade spectacular.


February 26, 11:30am

Jazz Brunch

Crescent Hotel Crystal Ballroom

75 Prospect Avenue

$25, reservations required


The Crescent Hotel Jazz Brunch is a great way to celebrate. Champagne, mimosas, live music, and a chance to meet the Mardi Gras king and queen. Enjoy carved meats, cheeses, shrimp, salads and desserts, at what’s being called the grandest brunch in the Ozarks. Will there be a Second Line dance? You know it!


February 28, 5pm

St. Liz Cajun King Cake Ball

St. Elizabeth Parish Hall

30 Crescent Drive

$40, call for reservations


On Fat Tuesday, St. Elizabeth Parish Hall transforms into a Mardi Gras wonderland. When the doors open at 5pm for cocktail hour, there will also be oysters on the half shell. At 6pm, the ball officially begins, with music by Naturally Brass, dancing, and the final procession of the Royal Court. The menu includes Boudin Balls, Crawfish Corn Bisque, Cajun Corn Slaw, Crab Cakes with Remoulade Sauce, and a Praline Pecan King Cake. This is a popular event, so make reservations early!



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