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First Posted: 1/21/2015

Hey big spender! Want to get in on that Bourbon Street merriment this Mardi Gras without the throngs of barely legal, binge drinking co-ed’s inappropriately vying for a string of cheap plastic beads they could have just purchased at the dollar store? Well, the United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania is throwing one scintillating Mardi Gras bash—aptly named “Party Gras”—that you won’t want to miss.

Mary Carrol Donahoe, director of development at UNC, believes, “When [people] walk out the door, they will stop and say, ‘Now THAT was a Party Gras’.” This year will mark the 15th anniversary of UNC’s annual Mardi Gras Celebration, benefiting the agency’s Angel’s Attic program, which provides food and clothing for more than 20,000 people per year.

“Our Mardi Gras Celebration originated from our board of directors wanting to create a different kind of fundraiser at a time when no one was doing it,” said Alison Woody, director of grants and communications at UNC. “This event started out very small. Now it has grown to well over 250 participants.”

Unfortunately, according to Woody, “March, April and May especially are hard times for food pantries. The holiday months are so hectic, they tend to overshadow the beginning of the new year. This event allows us to provide support to the community during these harsh winter months.”

This year’s Mardi Gras celebration, however, promises to be different from its predecessors.

“We feel that, after 15 years, this event could really use a refresher,” Woody said. “We decided to bring in Mary Donahoe, our new director of development, in order to spice the event up. She has really brought a new perspective to the event, adding all sorts of performances and twists. It was her idea to rename the celebration, ‘Party Gras’,” Woody said.

“What can I say? I love a Party Gras,” Donahoe said. “Having been [working] in special events for years, I can tell you that they always need a boost. We have the funk jazz outfit, Indigo Moon Brass Band, playing a live set. These guys are going to rock the joint. You’re either going to want to dance on tables or just sit back and listen. They’re that good.”

This year an impressive roster of events includes an after dinner, 30-minute magic set by mentalist John Graham. Woody feels Graham will help bring that spooky New Orleans feel to the Radisson, aside from providing some very different and fun entertainment.

Joining John Graham and the Indigo Moon Brass Band and sticking with the New Orleans’ flair are a host of fortune tellers. “We have four fortune tellers this year. People love the fortune tellers so much, we had to hire more this year in order to accommodate the demand,” Woody said.

So, why go through all of the trouble of travelling to NOLA when you can beat the winter cold with a belly full of hot jambalaya and an earful of funky jazz right here in NEPA? Remember, this Party Gras isn’t just some rousing joust of inebriated revelry—no, this Mardi Gras celebration is all in the name of sweet charity.