TALLADEGA -- A rainy Saturday didn’t stop or even put a damper on the annual Ritz Valentine Mardi Gras Gala at the Talladega Superspeedway Fox 1 Sports Dome.

“The Gala was a huge success,” Ritz Executive Director George Culver said. “Ticket sales passed all galas in recent history at 386 sold!”

As guests entered, they were greeted by local celebrity and rising Southern comedian Darren Knight, aka “Southern Mama,” who conducted his own version of the “Fashion Police.”

The six-hour celebration included a 12-course meal catered by Classic on Noble in Anniston.

WJOX radio personality Sean Heninger, better known as “Rockstar,” served as the evening’s master of ceremonies.

This year’s live entertainment was provided by The Peytones, who performed dance and love songs from the last four decades.

“Everyone was so pleased and raved about the music,” Culver said. “I’m confident the 2018 Gala was in fact Alabama’s largest Mardi Gras celebration north of Mobile.”

The gala also featured live paintings  by local artists Dr. Art Bacon, Russell Everett and Nettie Bean -- and a silent auction with more than 70 items sold.

“It was a financial success,” said Culver, who didn’t want to release exact totals. “The Ritz will for certain be able to fund arts education initiatives for the next year full – which will include upcoming performances in early March of the ‘The Rosa Parks Story.’”

Culver added that the six school performances will be for more than “2,200 area fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at no cost whatsoever for the students or schools.”

The gala is significant to the community, Culver said, because of the funding it provides for student arts enrichment programs.

“We are so appreciative for the strong public support for the gala over the last 23 years,” he said “We are so grateful to the artists who contributed pieces, and to the dozens and dozens of volunteers who worked so hard to make the Gala the success it was.”