BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Today, February 21, marks the annual Mardi Gras celebration. Although Mardi Gras is most popular in New Orleans, the Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield is putting on their own event.
The venue is most commonly known for showcasing country western artists, but on Fat Tuesday, the Crystal Palace will be playing jazz to bring a taste of The Big Easy to Bakersfield.
Headlining the celebration is Mento Buru, and lead vocalist Matt Muñoz says celebrating the spirit of New Orleans is the whole purpose of the band.
"So, in 2006 a year after the floods in Hurricane Katrina, and New Orleans was barely starting to bounce back, so we decided, 'You know what we're gonna do? We're gonna send some good vibes to the people in New Orleans and remind everybody the resilience of America in these times of crisis," said Muñoz.
Starting in small bars, Mento Buru have since expanded to more family-friendly venues, hoping to include kids while celebrating and sharing what New Orleans has to offer. He says this is the band's first time back at the Crystal Palace since the covid-19 pandemic began.
In addition to music, the event will also feature food based on New Orleans and cajun cuisine.
THE HISTORY OF MARDI GRAS
Mardi Gras, which translates into "Fat Tuesday" in French, is a weeklong celebration centered around communities gathering for a big feast. The celebration originates from the Catholic Church.
Father Luis Rodriguez of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Bakersfield says Mardi Gras is really a movement to make us more human.
"Traditionally, Christians gave up eating meat - red meat and all dairy products - so Tuesday, this Tuesday before us, is the last day to do that," said Rodriguez.
Fr. Rodriguez says the celebration proper starts the Thursday before Fat Tuesday with Carnival. He points out that in Latin, the term "carnival" means "farewell to meat."
Every religion has a different name for the Mardi Gras celebration, according to Rodriguez. In Catholic terms, Mardi Gras is known as Pancake Tuesday because in the Middle Ages, they would make pastries with pancake ingredients.
"So we call it Pancake, sometimes it's called Shrove Tuesday, because it's also a day where people confess their sins in preparation for Lent," said Rodriguez. "But every religion has something like this."
The celebration all comes down to one thing - the start of Lent, a season of sacrifice. Giving up some type of food item for 40 days until the start of Easter is a popular way of observing Lent, although Fr. Rodriguez says it doesn't have to be a favorite food.
"I often tell people, in some ways, it's take on something that will center you. Maybe I can spend more time with my family, but that means spending less time doing something else. Maybe instead, I work from home and at 5:00, the computer goes off," said Rodriguez.
Though Fat Tuesday originates from the Catholic religion, Muñoz says you don't have to be Catholic to celebrate. He says it's really a way to bring the community together to have fun each year, a goal especially relevant after the pandemic.
The Mardi Gras celebration at Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield continues until 9:00.