This year, the Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday Feb. 13. Although Lent is a solemn time of prayer, fasting and sacrifice to contemplate the coming of Easter, Christians have adopted a lively celebration called Mardi Gras that takes place before Lent begins.
New Orleans has become famous for its Mardi Gras festivities. Those who cannot go to Louisiana can celebrate close to home as the St. Francis Community in Tiffin presents its second Mardi Gras celebration 6-10 p.m. Feb. 2 in Elizabeth Schaefer Auditorium.
"We're very pleased that Jerry Anderson from WTOL-News 11 (in Toledo) will be joining us. He will be assisting the auctioneer and he also will be in our Mardi Gras dance-off," said Sister Sara Aldrich, director of mission advancement at St. Francis. "Granny (Doepker) will be back by popular demand."
The dance-off is an activity in which individuals make donations in exchange for a dance with a special person. In this version, "celebrities" from the community have volunteered to dance with as many willing partners as possible.
The competition will be done in two groups, with the winner of each going head to head to collect the most money.
In addition to Anderson, Leanne Smith, Shelly Mack, "Granny" Doepker, Brian Bilger, Eric Shook and the Rev. Tim Kummerer have agreed to compete.
Lee Martin is to serve as master of ceremonies again this year and Theresa Kagy and Randy Carpenter are to prepare Cajun food and drink. The menu has been pared a bit from last year, but the choices include shrimp, crab cakes, meatballs, chicken, fresh fruit, beignets (a kind of fritter) and "king cake."
The traditional Hurricane drinks are to be for sale, along with beer, wine and soft drinks.
"We really appreciate everybody's support. This is helping all of our ministries out here. Last year, because of the Mardi Gras, each of our ministries got an unexpected $4,000 to help with their programs and benefit the people they serve," Aldrich said.
Sister Jane Schimmoeller and Sue Wikoff are chairwomen for this year's event. The festivities also include live entertainment, music, jesters and an auction of unique items.
All proceeds are to benefit the ministries of the Sisters of St. Francis, St. Francis Spirituality Center, St. Francis Home and St. Francis Earth Literacy Center.
Elizabeth Schaefer Auditorium is at 190 St. Francis Ave. Mardi Gras tickets are $30 and can be purchased by calling (419) 447-0435. The deadline for reservations is Tuesday.