Mardi Gras in Montana?

The moment I walked into the art museum I had a hunch it would be a tough competition. Up to then, I thought we had it in the bag.


Hardly anyone was there except for the hosts and caterers. A masked woman greeted us and also handed us some Mardi Gras beads. As I placed them around my neck, I felt like I had landed in Hawaii and Don Ho had given me a lei to help me get into the mood of the party.


I glanced around the rooms of framed art. A woman in a corner at a wine station waited for guests to arrive in order to start selling vino. In another room, a costumed face-painter sat at a table waiting for parents with kiddos to come.


After being told where the food and spirits were and how much they cost, we milled around the upstairs and downstairs of the museum looking at paintings and discussing the artists work.


As we did, more party-goers began to arrive. Dracula and his bride entered and also Spiderman. No worries, I thought, those are Halloween costumes. When I saw the women with the shiny dresses and elaborate feathered masks walk into the basement, I got discouraged.


Had they gone to a mask making class? Did they have sequined dresses hanging around their closets? I had never been to a Montana affair where the guests attire was anything but supremely laid back. Even wedding guests wear blue jeans! I hadn’t anticipated anyone would wear fancy costumes.


We eventually made it to the back room where the New Orleans style food and Hurricanes were being sold.


I asked David if he wanted a muffaletta and he gave me that – mmm, I don’t think so – look. Not that he is unfamiliar with muffalettas, he loves them, he just doesn’t trust Montanans to know how to make them. This is where the caterer piped up and held a plate towards me and said something like, “Here, you can try one for free.”


Oh my gosh, I became the food critic from hell as I examined and tasted her sandwich and told her that her muffaletta was not authentic. “Cucumbers do not belong on a muffaletta,” I said.


She was gracious and handed me a bowl of jambalaya – lagniappe style. After comparing the taste palates of New Orleanians and Montanans, my family and I moved on and found a place to sit and observe.


As we sat and watched, David and I shared our first Hurricane. Yep, a gal like me and well over 21 had her first taste of the alcoholic beverage that Pat O Brian’s is famous for. Too bad it was in a plastic Dixie cup and not the signature glass.


The two hour wait for the costume contest finally came. All were told to gather in the face painting room and that the contestants should line up against the wall.


Mallory and Eileen in front of the painting.


Would our efforts of searching dresser drawers, closets, and basement for a 1970’s prom dress, floppy hat, and genuine Japanese robe pay off? Hopefully.


I really wanted one of my girls to get the 100.00 cash prize. We had driven all over town looking for white clown make-up – almost everyone told us it’s only stocked at Halloween – (we found it a JoAnn’s). With all of that effort, how could we lose?


So what if those other gals had snazzy costumes. We are from New Orleans. It is in our blood. We know how to throw together a costume in no time and do it on a shoestring.


I told Mallory and Eileen to look as though they wanted to win.


A masked woman picked up the microphone and explained how difficult it was to choose a winner. All were so good she said. She began pointing out winners and calling out names. One by one, the winners took center stage, pranced around, and posed for the cameras.


The prizes went to the middle-aged women with fish nets, sequins, and feathers.


It was time to go home. I felt like a sore loser.


As I said, I had a sinking feeling the moment we walked in the door.





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