FolkFire Articles

January/February 1997

  • FolkFire is Alive and Well and Three Years Old
  • A Brief Mardi Gras History
  • Mardi Gras Events 1997
  • Another Wild Oats Dance
  • FolkFireHome

  • FolkFire is Alive and Well and Three Years Old

    As FolkFire enters our fourth year of publication, I wish to re-state our purpose to the community and to assure all that FolkFire is doing well and continues to be the central source of information for the St Louis folk community.
    FolkFire was established as an organization to promote the mostly invisible-to-the-mainstream, yet still living folk roots of our aggregate American culture. We try to make information about these forms of music, dance, and other folk arts available to a wider audience, and provide the means for many groups to disseminate information to their core members, as well as to others for whom there may be interest.
    Smaller groups with no real budget are able to spread their word. Larger groups can save a lot of money in mailing costs in order to better serve their primary activities.
    We began as an eight page newsletter containing 23 groups which was mailed to 800 people and grew to 24 pages with 66 groups which is mailed to 3000 of a total printing of 5000 copies. When financial constraints forced us back to 16 pages, we tried to keep all the listings, although some are necessarily abridged. From the next issue on, we hope to maintain the 24 page publication which allows us to include more detailed group listings, more reviews, and more interesting and informative articles.
    FolkFire tries to include all interested and relevant folk-related groups and events. We attempt to steer clear of the personal or political conflicts which can arise between individuals and groups in any small community. We aim to be open and fair in our policies, listings and articles. Anyone is welcome to help us with any part of FolkFire. Several people have recently come forward to contribute some much needed time to our efforts. Our board is small because of the recent resignations, but we have a good group of volunteers. There is still plenty of work to go around.
    If you would like to write a review or an article about a group, an activity, or an event, please call us to discuss it. We are always looking for material. Call or fax the FolkLine at PRO-FOLK (776-3655 (disconnected 3/2001)), email to, check out our web page at or call me at home at 771-7619 (# disconnected in 4/2002).
    A Brief Mardi Gras History
    by Donna Eckberg with excerpts from the Soulard Renaissance article by Jay Gibbs

    The Mardi Gras celebration has evolved over a long period of time and incorporates a number of cultural influences. This festival originated with the pagan celebration of the winter solstice. The celebration honored the death and rebirth of nature, fertility and prosperity with feasting and ritualistic animal and human sacrifices.
    The Romans took a more civilized approach and named the festival Saturnalia. A mock monarch, destined to rule over the festivities, was chosen by the finding of a fava bean or gold coin in his piece of cake. Anyone could be king!
    Enter the Christian Church, which married these heathen festival customs to Christmas, near the time of the winter solstice, and the Twelfth Night or Epiphany celebration. The secular element came to be called Carnival, derived from the Latin carne (flesh) and vale (farewell). Celebrators enjoyed the sins of the flesh until saying farewell to them on Shrove Tuesday.
    Twelfth Night is the official start of the Mardi Gras season. The feasting, parades and masquerade balls end abruptly at midnight on Fat Tuesday--mardi gras in French--followed by Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the penitential season of Lent.
    During the Italian Renaissance, masquerading at Twelfth Night parties was added. This custom spread across Europe and then to America. During the Industrial Revolution, however, the long party season was discouraged because of the obvious loss of productivity it caused.
    New Orleans, where the French joie de vivre kept Mardi Gras alive, has held on to the Carnival tradition. Social clubs called "Krewes"--such as the Soulard Social Aid and Pleasure Club in St. Louis--were formed to raise funds to host the masquerade balls and extravagant displays needed for the parades. I recently visited Mardi Gras World in New Orleans which operates year round designing and building floats for these parades!
    Today, we are seeing the resurgence of this tradition in our Soulard neighborhood. Oddly enough, our Cajun friends tell us that soulard means "drunk" in Cajun! Beginning humbly in 1980 with entrepreneur Hilary Clements throwing parties at his restaurant on Russell, the early parades were somewhat small and uneventful. Inevitably, interest in the Cajun culture and sharing les bontemps has spurred growth of these early fetes into the popular celebration now held annually in Soulard. See the list of events to join in the good times of Mardi Gras!
    Mardi Gras Events 1997
    1/31 Kick-off Party at Off Broadway
    2/1 Taste of Soulard in Area Restaurants
    Cajun Creole Cook off at Aggie's with Bob Case
    Darkness Center Masked Ball (see ad on page 7)
    Wine tasting and Art Show at Boilermaker's Hall
    2/2 Crewe of Barkus Dog Parade starts at 2 pm, dress up your best friend to strut his/her stuff.
    2/7 Subterranean Ball at the S. Broadway Athletic Club with Ivan Neville
    2/8 Big Parade at 1pm,
    Music all day in Seagram's tent behind 1860's Saloon
    2/11 Fat Tuesday Night Parade, 7 pm in Soulard

    Visit (obsolete, 2000)
    Another Wild Oats Dance!

    Once again the ever-creative folks over at Wild Oats have arranged with FolkFire to hold a dance highlighting one of our many groups. This time the St. Louis Ragtime and Vintage Dance Society will present a romantic evening of waltzes and tangos taught by Mr. Ronan Mandra. The dance will be on Saturday, February 15, from 7-9 pm. It will be held in the Community Room of Wild Oats at 8823 Ladue Rd., one block east of I-170. This is a benefit for the Vintage Dance Society and FolkFire, with three-fourths of the $5 admission price going to these groups, and the rest to Wild Oats' other community programs.
    While this will be a fun evening of romantic couples dances, you don't need to come as part of a couple! All dances will be taught, and Wild Oats will publicize to many of the area singles groups, so you can expect a large and happy crowd. Wild Oats will have complimentary snacks and drinks on hand. Come on down and help support Wild Oats' new effort at working with the dance and music community by sponsoring this developing series of events with different groups. Get ready to have a great time!

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