Carroll County News
(Jan. 5, 2007)
By Kathryn Lucariello -- Carroll County News
EUREKA SPRINGS - Hurricane Katrina transplant Dan Ellis hopes to awaken interest in his beloved New Orleans culture by making the second "Eureka Gras" Mardi Gras event a permanent festival.
What better name for a Eureka Springs Mardi Gras "krewe" than the "Krewe of Krazo," which is "Ozark" spelled backwards?
And who better to start and promote this festival than Ellis, who grew up in New Orleans?
Ellis was born in Bucktown, a little fishing village on Lake Pontchartrain. His family had seafood restaurants there.
When he got older, Ellis lived "everywhere in New Orleans" up until 1995, when he moved to Pass Christian, Miss.
In New Orleans, Ellis was actively involved in Mardi Gras, which meant being a member of several Mardi Gras "krewes," or social organizations that put on parades or balls for the Carnival season.
"I was a member of Endymion for eight years, and Bacchus for six years," he said. Ellis was also a member of legendary clarinetist Pete Fountain's "Half Fast Marching Club" for six years.
When Ellis moved to Pass Christian, he started a jazz festival and a St. Patrick's Day celebration by organizing the "Half Fast Walking Club."
"It was the only walking club on the Coast," he said. "I was there until Hurricane Katrina put me out of business."
Katrina devastated Ellis' family, who lost 42 houses on the Gulf Coast. He himself lost his house and two cars. His extended family scattered to various locations, and he has lost contact with some of them.
Ellis came to Eureka Springs after the hurricane a year ago because a friend formerly from Pass Christian, Al Hooks, who is the Eureka Gras Grand Marshal, "kept egging me to come up here." Ellis said he'd come for a week. He never left.
"Downtown is my French Quarter from when I was a kid. It looks just like that. I love that downtown area, so I wanted to live close to downtown. Here is where I'll stay. I'm going to have my jazz funeral here." (A jazz funeral is a New Orleans tradition, dating back to Africa, in which the coffin is carried through the streets while a brass band plays as part of the procession.)
Ellis started Eureka Gras last year with the intention of doing a parade, but because he had only just moved here in November, it was too late to get extensively organized, so the parade was very small.
However, there was a masquerade ball and a “bar crawl,” both well attended, he said.
“We had 60 people in the crawl lasst year and about 30 to 40 people already established at the bars along the way,” he said.
It is tradition for each krewe to have a king and queen. Last year’s Kraxo King and queen were Bill Ott and Annunziata Scarpino, who will hand over their crowns this year to the new royalty.
Ellis has a fnll lineup of events planned, starting Saturday, Jan. 6, with a King's Day Kickoff Party to introduce the 2007 king, queen and royalty, at 3 p.m. at the Rowdy Beaver (formerly Duke's West Oaks) at 417 West Van Buren. There will be complimentary hors d' oeuvres and a Happy Hour cash bar.
New Orleans-style King Cakes will be given out. Whoever gets the piece with the “baby” in it gets a prize.
"The court will be there, and I'll teach everyone how to do a second line," said Ellis, for which he is making "second line umbrellas." “Second Lines” are groups that follow the krewe floats on foot, singing, playing music and dancing as they also do for Jazz Funerals..
The court will make an entrance at the ball and be presented in "tableau," which is all about the krewe's "theme" for the year. Krazo's theme is "Land 0' Dreams."
While the king, queen and their retinue are the court, the "captain" is the planner and decision-maker. That's Ellis' role for the Krewe of Krazo.
January and the first half of February will be planning months. Some people who were involved last year have recommitted for this year, but Ellis is hoping many more will join, especially those who participate in the Christmas and other parades in Eureka Springs.
Ellis will teach people what they need to know about floats, beads, costumes, second lines, king cakes and everything else associated with Mardi Gras.
Eureka Gras begins Friday, Feb. 16, with a masquerade ball at the Basin Park Hotel at 8:30 p.m. which includes the crowning of the new royalty, promenade and announcement of winners of the costume contest.
On Saturday, the 17th, at 4 p.m. there will be a Eureka Gras Mardi Gras parade, with the Krewe of Krazo court royalty leading the parade in convertibles, followed by floats, bands and other costumed groups.
The Krewe of Krazo will be followed by the Krewe of Barkus, based on the New Orleans Krewe of Barkus – dogs and their owners dressed up in Mardi Gras finery.
Jane Pike is the contact person for this part of the parade. The Barkus theme is "A Fistful of Collars. "
"It's not real formal," she said. "Just show up with your dog, dressed for Mardi Gras. "Dogs must be on a leash or in buggies or tow wagons."
She said there will be first, second and third place prizes for costumed dogs and a first place award for a costumed couple – a pet and mate. The krewe will stop at Basin Park for a "toast," that is, a water stop.
Besides Krazo and Barkus, Ellis says, any group can do their own krewe.
"Last year the theatre group did their own krewe and float," he said. "Do whatever you want. If the whole community got inspired, it would be great. I would like to make this an area-wide event where the king and queen could come from other towns, too."
On the big day itself – Feb. 20, "Fat Tuesday," the Krewe of Krazo will do a Krazo Krawl Second Line in costume from the Pied Piper to Chelsea's – giving out throws along the way.
“This is not like any other event in Eureka Springs," Ellis said. "Mardi Gras is something for everyone, whether you're in costume in the parade or in costume on the street or just watching. Everyone's invited." for more information, visit Krazo.Ureeka.Org, email Ellis at ClickHere or call him at 479-981-9551.