TALLADEGA -- The city of Talladega is ready to celebrate as it prepares for the municipality’s Mardi Gras Parade and Gala hosted by the Historic Ritz Theatre.
“Saturday is going to be a fun day for the entire community,” Ritz Executive Director George Culver said.
The festivities will kick off with the Talladega Mardi Gras Parade beginning at 11 a.m.
According to parade officials, the route will be the same as previous years, beginning at Zora Ellis Junior High School at 414 Elm St. and heading east down South Street to Asbury Street, which follows to East Battle Street at Rite Aid Pharmacy.
The parade will continue west on East Battle toward the courthouse square, where it will then circle the square before heading down East Street to South Street, ending back at Zora Ellis.
Culver noted the parade’s centerpiece will be the comedy units of Shrine Clubs from across Alabama and Georgia.
“This year, we have 45 Shriners participating so far. It’s our largest yet,” he said.
Other parade participants will include multiple area businesses and officials, beauty queens, dancers, marching bands and more.
Parade registration is still open and free of charge. Officials note the parade will take place rain or shine.
For more information, contact 2018 parade Coordinator Lauren Deal at 205-792-7438.
“Everyone is welcome. Just be creative with a clever idea with a show of Mardi Gras spirit using purple, gold and green colors,” Culver said.
The Ritz is also selling beads and mini-moon pies for parade participants to throw.
For more information and pickup arrangements, call 256-315-0000.
2018 Valentine Mardi Gras Gala
Tickets are still on sale for “Alabama’s largest Mardi Gras party north of Mobile.”
The 2018 Talladega Valentine Mardi Gras Gala will take place from 5:30 until 11:30 p.m. at the Talladega Superspeedway Fox Sports 1 Dome.
“It’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate Mardi Gras and Valentine's Day all at once with delicious food, impressive art, wonderful entertainment and fun fellowship,” Culver said. “The gala is our biggest annual fundraiser, with net proceeds going towards Ritz programming, including our ambitious arts education initiatives with area schools that impact over 5,000 students each school year.”
The six-hour evening of Mardi Gras festivities will include live entertainment by the Peytones.
“They are very talented and have members that also perform with Black Jacket Symphony. You’ll hear some of the best dance music and love songs of the past four decades,” Culver said.
In addition to live entertainment, the gala will also feature a silent auction and ticket raffle.
“This is one of our biggest yet, with over 70 items” Culver said. “We are auctioning off a (2017) national championship football signed by Saban, both quarterbacks and all members of the team who took a snap during the (national championship) game. It has been officially certified and will be presented in a nice display case with the same pen that was used to sign it.”
Culver noted other auction items include a Bushmaster AR rifle, a winter or summer vacation to the mountains of New Mexico and more.
WJOX radio personality Sean Heninger, better known as “Rockstar,” will serve as the evening’s master of ceremonies.
Local celebrity and rising Southern comedian Darren Knight, aka “Southern Mama,” will also be greeting guests upon arrival on the red carpet. Knight will be conducting his own version of the “Fashion Police,” which will be lived streamed inside the Dome.
The 12-course dinner will be catered by Classic on Noble in Anniston.
“It’s a celebratory evening with good food, art and live music that the young and old can appreciate,” Culver said. “The gala will also feature an open bar, serving a variety of spirits.”
During the gala, multiple local artists will be painting live, including Dr. Art Bacon, Russell Everett and Nettie Bean.
Tickets are $85 for a single, $170 for a pair and $680 for a table of eight. To have a name reserved table, the cost will be an additional $50.
If interested in attending, contact the Ritz Theatre office before Saturday at 256-315-0000.