The 1920s will roar through Nevada City this Mardi Gras weekend |

The 1920s will roar through Nevada City this Mardi Gras weekend

On the weekend you’ll see women dressed up as flappers and guys with their straw hats, bow ties and spats around and about Nevada City – straight out of the 1920s. It is party time, something like Bourbon Street West as Mardi Gras comes to town.

A Cajun pre-dance dinner and masquerade ball with the hot and spicy Bayou Boys are on tap for Saturday. Sunday is the street fair and popular parade that attracts up to 3,000 viewers on Broad Street. Starting at 2 p.m., gaily-masked societies parade through town handing out beads, trinkets and bangles. Among the dozens of floats and contingents of marchers will be the Merry Widows, a service group that dates back to the post-Civil War days. Legend has it that a dozen women showed up at the funeral of activist Joe Cain, each claiming to be Cain’s widow. Today, the Merry Widows, now 13 in number, carry on the tradition of service by giving education scholarships to single parents. Look for a new float representing Sparky and the Shifters, a group of merrymakers at its best. Everyone is encouraged to get in the spirit and dress for fun.

The idea of a Mardi Gras parade started long ago, says Bob Buhlis, president of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, when old Joe Cain (the one with multiple widows) felt the mood was too morose in Mobile, Ala., right after the Civil War. “He got some pans and spoons and started beating on them as he paraded down the street.” Nevada City’s version started 14 years ago when a group of guys celebrating at a local watering hole in 1993 got the idea. “It started small and grew and grew,” Buhlis says with understandable pride; he’s been involved with it for 12 years.

One rule that may be tough to follow for everyone is the “thou shalt not toss beads.” Says Buhlis, “We give a couple of thousand (strands of beads) to the dignitaries to hand out.” And exposing body parts is definitely out, he says. “It’s a family event,” don’t you know.

• It takes place rain, sleet or shine.

•The policy is zero tolerance for bad behavior. What is bad behavior? The Chamber knows, so do the police – carrying booze in a glass container is definitely one of those bad behaviors; use plastic instead.

• Tossing strings of beads is against safety regulations; the Ophir Prison Marching Band might just take you away for that transgression.

• Save the air, take a shuttle. A free service ferries visitors to and from the parking lots at the Nevada County Government Center on Highway 49 between noon and 5 p.m.

What: Cajun dinner followed by the Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball

When: Saturday: dinner is 6-8 p.m.; ball is 8 p.m. to midnightWhere: Miners Foundry Cultural Center, 325 Spring St., Nevada City

Admission: $25 for dinner; for the ball, $15 in advance (recommended because it normally sells out) or $20 at the door.

Information: Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, 265-2692; online at

What:Street Faire and Mardi Gras Parade

When: Sunday: fair is 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; parade starts at 2 p.m.

Where: Downtown Nevada City, with parade starting at the top of Broad Street and turning before the bridge.

Admission: Free

Information: Nevada City Chamber, 132 Main St.

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