Mardi Gras in Soulard takes students back home

Sunday, February 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:13 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

With Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday just around the corner, MU students from St. Louis are packing their bags to head home for the 25th annual Grand Parade through Soulard.

“I love going to Mardi Gras in St. Louis,” said Justin Hitschler, an education major. “I go every year and make a four-day weekend out of it. It is a great time hanging out in the streets; you can find great music.”

Most headed out late Friday to see the Saturday parade through the historic Soulard district. Some, like Hitschler, will stay for the Fat Tuesday parade downtown that ends at Laclede’s Landing on the Mississippi River.

While many people think of Mardi Gras as just another excuse to party, for some students it is a family tradition in which kids and adults enjoy the different activities.

Anna Bradford has been celebrating Mardi Gras in St. Louis for as long as she can remember.

“I have been going to Mardi Gras since I was a small child,” said Bradford, a social work major. “My father always participated in the parade on Saturday and all of our family and friends would go to Soulard for the whole day. It was fun for both the children and the adults.

“It was a huge part of my childhood and I still enjoy it today,” Bradford said. “I am sure that when I have my children I will continue the tradition and take them there each year.”

The festival began in 1980. Today, people come from across the state to party, catch beads, wear Mardi Gras costumes and see the myriad of floats and marching bands.

For Jessica Graham, however, the emphasis is on spending time with her family.

“One of my favorite activities is walking around Soulard and downtown watching all the different people and floats,” said Graham, a communications major. “Mardi Gras means a lot to me because it is one of the only times throughout the year that my family gets together and celebrates with one another.”

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