Mardi Gras approaches

Before the Easter pastels can be displayed to welcome spring, the Mardi Gras colors of green, gold and purple must make their appearance. They are to be visible in full force as St. Francis Senior Ministries stages its third annual Mardi Gras celebration 6-10 p.m. March 1 at Elizabeth Schaefer Auditorium.

Sister Jane Schimmoeller and Sue Wikoff again are co-chairwomen of the event. They reported advanced sales have been good.

“We had a full house last year. A few people ended up not being able to come at the end because we had not very good weather,” Schimmoeller said.

Those who did attend enjoyed an evening of Cajun cuisine and beverages, an auction, costumed jesters and live music for listening and a dance off. The format for 2014 is to be similar, with a few changes.

Kevin Maiberger and Yvonne Ehrenfried will be back to provide live music and Lee Martin is to serve as master of ceremonies.

“We’ll also do 50/50 drawings during the evening.” Schimmoeller said. “There’s always a lot going on. That was Jackie’s (Sister Jacqueline Doepker) original idea … so people wouldn’t just sit there.” Schimmoeller said.

Local “celebrities” have agreed to lead the dance-off. The men include Father Kishore Kottana, Rich Cline and Nick Fabrizio. The women will be Sister Jackie Doepker, Vicki Lowery and Rebecca Shank. People will pay to dance with the special dancers. The man and woman who generate the most donations will compete in the final round.

Amy Wells, the reigning Mrs. Ohio, is to be the special guest this year to participate in the dance-off.

Bill Jones again will serve as auctioneer for several items. Others will be offered in a raffle where patrons can place chances in a basket next to the item they hope to win. The big wheel and sideboards are to be featured again.

“It will be a sweet deal this year. They’ll get a large chocolate bar if they buy a ticket for that. Last year, it was the bread,” Schimmoeller said of the sideboard tickets.

For many, the abundant food is the main draw at Mardi Gras. A fruit sculpture is to be the centerpiece. Another favorite is beignets. The dough is cut into squares, fried and then dusted with powdered sugar.

Wikoff said the main course is authentic yet mild enough for most palates.

“We’ve made some slight changes in the menu, but we try to focus toward who our guests would be. It’s not really spicy food,” Wikoff said.

A cash bar will have wine, beer and soft drinks. Each person receives a drink ticket upon entry. The featured alcoholic drink is the Hurricane.

“Something new this year will be a traditional cake walk. We will have three specialty cakes (as prizes),” Wikoff said.

A cake walk is a combination of a raffle and a game of musical chairs. In the St. Francis version, participants will make a donation to join a line of people. Led by a jester, they will make their way around the floor as music plays. Invisible markers are to be set up at three points in the room. When the line stops moving, the person closest to the designated marker wins a cake.

Another change for 2014 was the opportunity to reserve tables. Wikoff said more than half the tables were reserved by the Feb. 8 deadline. About 50 tickets are still available for $30 each.

For more info or reservations, call (419) 447-0435. Proceeds are to be divided among the St. Francis ministries.