Archive for Tuesday, February 16, 1999

SCHOOL VISITOR UNMASKS CUSTOMS OF MARDI GRAS

February 16, 1999

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Schwegler School students received a lesson on Mardi Gras merrymaking from a teacher from Louisiana.

With her own classes out of school for Mardi Gras, a Pineville, La., teacher, Laura Sanders, came to Lawrence to spread "a lot of silliness" to fourth-graders at Schwegler School.

Sanders' sister Sue Willoughby is a teacher at the school and shares duties with a co-teacher, Deborah Norwood.

"It's just havin' fun," Sanders said.

Sanders celebrated the holiday with students Monday, a day before Fat Tuesday, the celebratory day before Ash Wednesday and so-called because it is the last day before the Lenten fast.

Less than 10 minutes into the presentation, Sanders had students yelling the mantra that netted them strands of colorful beads: "Throw me something, mister!"

Sanders threw beads, plastic coins called doubloons and cards to students.

"They're enthusiastic; it's contagious," she said. "That's what it's all about. It's fun and excitement."

Students even got to sample a king cake. A king cake is a frosted ring cake that contains a small plastic baby. Once the cake is cut and divided, tradition dictates that the person who ends up with the baby holds the party the following year.

Sanders came up with her own version of the tradition. Michael Oudwick was the lucky winner and got to take home an entire king cake as a prize to share with his family.

"I'm going to eat it," he said after making his discovery. Despite winning the tasty treat, Michael said his favorite part of the party was the beads.

"It's fun to have them and wear them," he said.

Lindsey Zentic had to wait longer than most of her classmates before catching a strand of the flying beads.

"I'm going to save them and put them up for decoration," she said.

Lindsey said that if the opportunity arose, she would go to New Orleans for the real Mardi Gras festivities.

"I think it would be interesting to go," she said. "It would be fun to do all of these things."

When Mardi Gras ends at midnight today, the parties will be over, but the tradition may live on, at least in one fourth-grade class.

"I'm going to tell my friends who weren't here and show my parents," Sam Harwood said. "This is a lot of fun."

-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is jwatson@ljworld.com.

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