Freestyle: Mardi Gras moves indoors
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / firstname.lastname@example.org
February will be crowded with celebrations, with Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day and Fat Tuesday — Mardi Gras! — all coming at you.
Stay sharp: This year, Mardi Gras in Honolulu’s Chinatown is changing things up. There won’t be a Mardi Gras block party; instead the celebration will take place indoors, at 10 venues throughout the Arts District.
MARDI GRAS CARNAVAL
Presented by T-Rx Entertainment
» Where: Chinatown Arts District
The 15th annual Mardi Gras Carnaval goes down on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 17. Don’t let the preceding weekend take it all out of you.
“It’s one of the best programs we’ve ever had,” says Mark Tarone, who puts on Mardi Gras via production company T-Rx Entertainment.
New this time around: Entertainment inside the Encore Saloon Building at 1110 Nuuanu Ave.
The building at the corner of Nuuanu Avenue and Hotel Street is being renovated as a site for Chinatown restaurants, drinking establishments and office space. Mardi Gras Carnaval will give patrons a chance to get an early look at the prime corner spot’s transformation.
Go to this location for food from vendors including The Pig & The Lady, DJs, dancing and a musical installation a la Burning Man: “Elevate,” from Jerome James’ Activ8 Electro Jazz collective.
“It’s nice to be out on the street and we plan to be out there again,” Tarone said, “but this will be fantastic.”
Note that while club crawls often start at 10 p.m., entertainment and food service will begin at 6 p.m. at this year’s Carnaval. Tarone says that many entertainment highlights will take place between 7 and 10 p.m. In most cases, venues will be open to all ages in the early hours.
“It makes for a great pau hana,” Tarone said.
THE COST of putting on an outdoor block party has gone up, Tarone noted.
“They’re now very expensive events to produce,” he said. Security costs, including required police presence, are “high.” He calculated that it’s not economically feasible to put on an event in the same way it’s been done in the past.
Tarone has subsidized the event out of pocket for the past three years, he said, and is considering changes to put it back on solid ground — and in the street. He’ll reveal those plans when they’re ready.
“Last year’s Mardi Gras, I felt, was the best product we’ve ever shared with Honolulu,” Tarone said. He’s determined to give Honolulu residents and visitors “an exciting and rewarding experience,” and also is a big believer in supporting Chinatown.
THIS YEAR, expect a relatively family-friendly vibe in the early hours, with food and entertainment offered beginning at 6 p.m.
One wristband offers admission to all 10 venues. The wristbands can be purchased in advance for as little as $5 (21+ only; Tarone said he wants to make sure drinking-age patrons are able to get their wristbands before offering a general sale). Admission for those under 18 is free.
» Krewe of Da Kine’s Firewater Ball with perennial festival headliner John Cannizzaro & Delta Skelta at Nextdoor.
“It’s a provocative theme,” Tarone advised, as he enthusiastically praised the anticipated lighting, costumes, “and the whole energy.”
» Island Zouk at The Fix.
Keep an eye on the Mardi Gras Carnaval Facebook page for more details as they develop.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.