There was no need to go to New Orleans for the nearly 200 people who celebrated Mardi Gras Tuesday at WASCO Inc. in Marietta.
A parade consisting of 13 floats featuring live and papier-mache animals, a human jack-in-the-box and more wound its way through the production area of the nonprofit organization that provides work and life skills to adults with developmental disabilities. Clients and staff members worked to put together the floats then donned purple, yellow and green masks, hats and beads to throw a party for each other and students from nearby Ewing School.
"I can't hardly believe we've got a full house," said WASCO client Marsha Hill, 54, of Belpre.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
WASCO clients Penny Bolen, front left, assisted by WASCO associate Tina Dalton, and king Duane Henry, center, lead off the Mardi Gras parade Tuesday at the WASCO Workshop.
Hill helped construct a papier-mache elephant that followed Mardi Gras king and queen Duane Henry and Penny Bolen at the head of the parade. Bolen squealed with delight as workers, volunteers, community members and fellow clients applauded her royal entrance.
It was the second year WASCO has celebrated Mardi Gras, but the first time volunteer Carolina Alvarez of Marietta participated.
"It's amazing," she said. "I'm really impressed by how much time and effort went into this."
The basics of Lent
Lent - The season of the Christian year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer and fasting in order to grow closer to God. It consists of the 40 days before Easter, excluding Sundays.
Mardi Gras - Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday" and refers to the day before Lent starts. In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Since they didn't want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads and fixed meals with all the meat available.
Ash Wednesday - The day after Mardi Gras, it usually begins with a service where Christians recognize their mortality, repent of their sins and return to God. In the service, a minister or priest usually marks the sign of the cross on a person's forehead with ashes.
Maundy Thursday - An alternate name for Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter and the first of the three days of solemn remembrance of the events leading up to and immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus.
Good Friday - The Friday before Easter on which the crucifixion of Jesus is remembered.
Easter Sunday - The celebration of Christ's resurrection, which falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. This year, Easter is March 31.
Source: United Methodist Church, www.umc.org
Work on the floats started last month and generated a spirit of competition among those involved, said Sandy Lang, registered support specialist with WASCO. That resulted in a few pranks and Lang joking that she wanted to claim the four-tiered sternwheeler float assembled by WASCO clients and staff who do work for Thermo Fisher Scientific as her own.
"This is the one I'm mad about," she said.
WASCO clients Alicia Lee, Josh Donahue and Julia Cottrell pulled the float - loaded with festively decorated rubber ducks - around the workshop floor. They were proud of their efforts, which resulted in the group repeating as the winner of the Best in Show prize.
"We had hours and hours in that (float)," said Donahue, 23.
"We're pretty happy," Cottrell said of winning the award.
Taking the Best Mardi Gras title was the music room's cart pulled by an actual miniature horse.
"I've become a farmer," WASCO registered support specialist Connie Hughes said of her work to prepare the entry with nurse Kathy Silvus. "I've been up since 5 o'clock working in a barn with Kathy. And I'm all city girl."
Lang said the day is simply a chance to do something fun for WASCO's clients. After the parade, the celebration continued with live music by local band Roy Bones and the Breaks, king cake, a pinata and photos. She said the event is something that is fun for the clients.
"It just keeps getting better and better, better and bigger," Lang said.
WASCO client Betty Anne Fitzpatrick, 48, of Marietta, agreed, although she attributed at least part of the improvement to where she was sitting. Last year, she was in the parade; this time, she was a spectator.
"They did a wonderful job on the floats," Fitzpatrick said. "I think I enjoyed watching it better than being in it."