Mardi Gras in the Fort


words: Marla Cantrell
Images: courtesy Bordertown Events

The Mardi Gras celebration got its start in medieval Rome, spread to France, and then to the French colony of New Orleans in the 1600s. In 1875, Louisiana made Mardi Gras a legal holiday. The tradition of parades, masquerade balls, and elaborate banquets is alive and well, and this year, Fort Smith, Arkansas is getting in on the fun.

Bordertown Events, a local group that raises awareness and money for those in need, is organizing a series of events that take place this month. Charities benefitting are Earthbound Angels, Heart to Heart, the Riverfront Blues Festival, and Make-A-Wish.

There is something for everyone, including a parade on February 25. Grammy® Award winner, Chubby Carrier will be performing at the Masquerade Ball on February 27, there’s a King and Queen contest at The Sound Room on February 25, and a Fat Tuesday party on February 28.

For more information, visit


February 12

Battle of the Bands
Hero’s Bar and Grill
1002 Garrison Avenue
Bands pay $75 to enter. Must sign up by February 7
Bands from across the area are encouraged to compete in the Battle of the Bands. A panel of judges will be on hand to pick the first round of bands to go to the next competition. Those winners will compete on February 19 at Wishbone’s Music and Chicken Joint at 509 Garrison Avenue.

The overall winners will be announced at The Sound Room at 817 Garrison Avenue, on February 25. There are cash prizes for first place winners in the band and solo/duo categories. See website for details.

February 13-23

Live Art Demos/Exhibits
Several locations downtown
No fee to participate. Must sign up by February 7
Watch as these talented individuals, including everyone from high school students to professional artists, paint, draw, sculpt, and photograph. Several venues downtown are hosting the artists, so check the Fort Smith Mardi Gras Facebook page for updates, or just show up downtown.

If you want to sign up to participate and learn about the cash prizes, visit the website. The artists’ completed works will be on display on February 25 at the Goins Furniture Building at 900 Garrison Avenue.

February 25

Street Village
Garrison Avenue from Second to Tenth Streets
Free to attend
Garrison Avenue transforms on February 25, with a day and night of activities. Street vendors, including food, arts and crafts, and merchandise from local establishments will be available.
Kids Village
Pendergraft Park
200 Garrison Avenue
Begins at 11am
Free to attend
Bring the kids out for a day of family fun. There will be crafts, a bounce-around, even Mardi Gras mask making. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, there will be an alternate location announced at the event and on social media. This event benefits Earthbound Angels.

Emi Sunshine

Emi Sunshine and the Rain
The Sound Room
817 Garrison Avenue
2pm and 3:30pm
$5-$10 donation suggested
Tickets available at the door
Emi Sunshine is a twelve-year-old East Tennessee prodigy who sings “old-time” music her own way. Her unique blend of roots music is equal parts Americana, bluegrass, gospel, and country, with a little bit of blues thrown in for good measure. She’s appeared at the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium. This event benefits Make-A-Wish and is sponsored by the Mower Shop.

Mardi Gras Parade
North Sixth to North Tenth, along Garrison Avenue
It’s not Mardi Gras without a parade! There will be a Second Line composed of Northside, Southside, and UAFS band members, led by Prince Albert of New Orleans. Organizers encourage attendees to wear costumes. Come see the floats, catch some Mardi Gras beads, and take tons of photos.

Fun at The Sound Room
817 Garrison Avenue
Begins at 5:30pm
$5-$10 (suggested) at the door
The winner of the Battle of the Bands will be announced. The final three bands, and solo/duos will be competing. Come support the bands and watch as a panel of judges picks the winners. This event benefits The Riverfront Blues Society.

From 8-10pm, rap artists from the area will be performing. Cost is $5 at the door, and $8 for couples. At 10pm, the Mardi Gras King and Queen Contest begins. Dress up in costume, sign up to enter and let the fun begin. Judges will be picked from the crowd.

Mardi Gras Crawl
Garrison Avenue
Begins at 8pm
Just purchase a cup for $5 from one of the merchandise booths along Garrison Avenue, then head to the participating pubs/establishments for deeply discounted drinks. Remember: drink responsibly. Never drink and drive.


Official Mardi Gras Bash featuring Dirtfoot
The Sound Room
817 Garrison Avenue
$10 in advance; $12 at The Sound Room door
Dirtfoot calls its band the only Front Porch, Foot Stomping, Gypsy, Punk, Country, Grumble, Boogie band in the land. The six-man band hails from Louisiana, the hallowed ground of Mardi Gras music. Show up at The Sound Room to hear the band and celebrate Mardi Gras.

February 27


Masquerade Ball
The Sound Room
817 Garrison Avenue
Doors open at 5:30pm
This black-tie optional ball features music by Grammy® Award winner Chubby Carrier, an American Zydeco musician. There will also be a live art auction. Advance tick-ets at R. Landry’s New Orleans Café are $12. Tickets are $15 at The Sound Room door. Add dinner to your ticket and the cost increases to $35 in advance, and $40 at The Sound Room door. The meal is catered by R. Landry’s New Orleans Café and includes Jambalaya, red beans and rice, Crawfish Étouffée, gumbo, salad, corn, and French bread.

February 28

Fat Tuesday
R. Landry’s New Orleans Café
613 Garrison
Celebrate Fat Tuesday at R. Landry’s New Orleans Café. The Trey Johnston Band will be performing. Trey is a bluesy singer/songwriter who’s a Louisiana native now living in North Little Rock. Giveaways, special drinks, and more.

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