The marquee on the Capitol Theatre displayed the words, “sold out” as crowds began arriving early Friday night for Mardi Gras at the Capitol.
Aside from sponsors who were upstairs at a cocktail party, which was part of their sponsorship package, the others were held in the lobby and not admitted further into the theater until after the parade.
The Margi Gras parade around the square at 6:30 p.m. lasted a few minutes as the participation was smaller than expected. Their quick return to the theater prompted open doors, so everyone in attendance was admitted and assumed the job of finding a table. Sponsors’ tables were marked reserved up front as they were served dinner from a menu separate from the buffet dinner served to the rest of the guests.
The remaining guests other than sponsors were able to select where they wanted to sit. Tables seating eight guests were set on the tiered rows on the way down from the back of the theater. Within minutes, the place was filled with 280 guests.
The Mardi Gras event took the place of the 13-year affair known as the Low Country Boil, which was a success with its tent on the hill at Ed Riley’s house.
However, Riley and his cosponsoring Shamrock group of men and all their guests experienced a few of those years filled with cold wind-gushing October nights that created havoc on the tents, guests and food. Then the physical work of putting all the tents, food and all the other stuff together for the event took a strain on the group as they had gotten 13 years older in the meantime, and prices escalated on food and everything else.
“We felt it was time to make a change in the way we were doing things,” said Riley. “The first thing we opted for was a building to hold it in so no matter what the weather was, it wouldn’t affect us. So we went to Bob Black who owns the Capitol Theatre with his wife, Pam. Black has been one of the workers, friends, club members and sponsors that worked with us for the 13 years and agreed to work with us on this new plan structure. The Mardi Gras theme fit with our menu so we aimed it for Mardi Gras month and went after other sponsors.
As soon as the people were seated, Black welcomed all.
“After 13 years of the Low Country Boil, this is the first Mardi Gras. Fourteen years from now we will be celebrating 14 years of Mardi Gras,” said Black.
The Brothers and Sisters of Soul were introduced and played through dinner and after a live auction.
A cash bar was open from the beginning, and dinner was served to the sponsors and the buffet opened to everyone else who filed down by rows so people weren’t left standing for long time periods.
Foods consisted of Cajun and Southern dishes such as roasted chicken, etoufeé, red beans and rice and corn on the cob. Deserts were cheesecake, chocolate cake and a Mardi Gras king cake of which one was on each table and cut into eight pieces. One piece in each cake contained a tiny plastic baby that was symbolic originally to celebrate the birth of Christ from the three kings – hence the name of the cake.
After dinner, Gary Whitaker and Tonyia Watson with Sherry’s Run took the stage. Whitaker explained how the event was named in honor of his wife who died of cancer at an early age.
“Our funds are making a difference in the cancer patients around here,” Watson said. “We have collected more than $2 million in the 12 years since we started, which is so much more than we ever anticipated. Tonight, we have nine different sponsorship tables plus five event sponsors.”
Matthew Whitaker and Jeff Hallum split the auctioneering duties for the live auction.
The first item sold was tickets, backstage passes and a meet-and-greet session at Reba, Brooks and Dunn: Together in Vegas in the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace that was donated by Friends of Sherry’s Run. It brought $3,700.
The second item was dental veneers, valued at $6,000, donated by Dr. Aaron E. Pryor of Pryor Family Dentistry. It sold for $2,600.
The third sold was an Alaskan trip with your own personal guide, donated by Friends of Sherry’s Run. It brought $4,100.
The fourth item was a trip to Grand Regina Resort in Las Cabos, Mexico donated by Larry and Kristine Powell. Listed as a $6,000 value, it brought $4,600.
Body Kneads Inc. donated unlimited massages for a year. Two bidders stayed neck-in-neck up to $3,300 so Body Kneads said they would give two of the packages so both bidders could go for $3,300 each. So that brought in another $6,600.
This put the live auction total at $21,600.
The Brothers and Sisters of Soul took over the stage again.
Between 8:30-9 p.m., the crowd started thinning out, which put a cap on a memorable first outing.