PEEKSKILL, N.Y. The city will be getting its first Mardi Gras celebration this March when a festive fundraising event will be held.
The event is being sponsored by Cross Cultural Connections, a non-profit organization founded by Peekskill Jazz musician Ray Blue and his wife Riitta, who has used the organization to teach jazz music to young people around the world.
"Our mission is to promote jazz culture, education and performance," Blue said.
Blue has held a performance with one of the pro-am groups in Peekskill for the last three years, but hes also been doing them for the last eight years in states like Iowa and Illinois and countries such as France, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Germany, France and Finland.
Blue is currently spending the week doing an after school jazz history program at White Plains Elementary and Middle School with the city's youth bureau.
The event will be held at the Peekskill Elks lodge at 1038 Brown Street on March 3 from 7-11 p.m. and will feature New Orleans-style performances by Blue and other area musicians.
"It will be a New Orleans-style menu, with jambalaya, chicken, greens, beans and rice," Blue said.
Admission is a $50 donation. The Elks will also run a cash bar.
While Mardi Gras has come to be associated with partying and Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the seasonal event has religious roots. It is the time before the Catholic Church celebrates Lent, which is considered a time of repentance and fasting. The last day of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, is immediately proceeded by Ash Wednesday.
Blue said he hopes to also get a New Orleans-style parade going before the event from the gazebo on North Division Street to the Elks Lodge, complete with streamers, beads and a street band, called "stompers" playing a traditional second line beat. The parade will depend on approval from the city.
Blue said the event will definitely be a family-friendly affair.
"We like to keep it inter-generational," Blue said. "The support of parents is very important for young people. It's good to see them all out together."
Cross Cultural Connections is still looking for sponsors and volunteers to help run the event, and Blue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his website, www.rayblue.com .
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