In Louisiana, the fun doesn’t stop with New Year’s resolutions. Tonight, Jan. 6, otherwise known as Twelfth Night or the Epiphany, the season of Carnival begins with Mardi Gras balls and other revelries.
This year, all that’s going to the dogs.
For 24 years, the Mardi Paws Parade for canines and their owners took place in Mandeville, just across the causeway from New Orleans, on the Sunday after Mardi Gras Tuesday (this year Feb. 18, 2018). The annual event came at the tail end of the Carnival season (hey, don’t blame us, we borrowed that pun from the organizers).
This year, the Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws, who put on the annual parade, have decided to take the fun one paw step further with its inaugural Mardi Gras ball. On Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, the krewe will offer its Mutts to Models ball, open to the public with general admission tickets at $125 each, with proceeds going to charity.
The host of the evening is Ian Somerhalder, an actor celebrated for his roles as Damon Salvadore on “The Vampire Diaries” and as Boone Carlyle on “Lost.” An ardent animal lover who grew up in neighboring Covington, Louisiana, Somerhalder worked like a dog to create his namesake foundation (another organization pun). The Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) has purchased 100 acres of land near Mandeville with about 70 of those acres set aside to preserve the bayou and the remaining 30 acres to support pet projects that serve the needs of animals, youth and the community at large. Scott’s Wish, according to organizers, is to provide aid for patients with leukemia and life-threatening illnesses, the other beneficiary of Mardi Paws events.
The Mutts to Models Ball will take place at the Fleur de Lis event center in Mandeville and feature celebrities, local philanthropists, media personalities, and veterans and other heroes walking the runway with their dogs. Among the models will be Somerhalder escorting a canine representative from one of the organizations that’s been helped by ISF. Another “model” will be Army veteran Erick Scott, who received a black lab named Gumbo from the K9s for Warriors program after serving three tours in Iraq. Gumbo was sponsored by New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who donated the funds to train the dog and gave him his Louisiana-centric name.
A highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the 2018 canine court, with the top dogs wearing king and queen robes designed by Mary Viveiros of the House of Privilege Canine Couture. The runway show will be produced by Penelope Francis, a global brand strategist based in Miami and Los Angeles and the cofounder and creative director of her former luxury brand, Fifi & Romeo. Models will be showcasing a private collection from Louisiana legend Raoul Blanco Couture, which dresses a loyal following of society’s “who’s who” around the globe.
The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. with a VIP cocktail reception, followed by the runway show and after-party. The event is open to human attendees; canine guests are limited to the model participants.
If you can’t make the ball, don’t forget the Mardi Paws Parade on Feb. 18. This season’s costumes will highlight “Fables, Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes.”
For more information about the ball or tickets, visit www.MuttstoModels.com. To plan ahead for the parade, visit www.MardiPaws.com.
Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by travel writer Chere Coen who loves a strange and unique Southern place or tradition. She's also a big fan of dog parades.