story and photos by Ruby Dean
The Fort Smith Museum of History hosted its’ annual “Mardi Gras – Best Party in Town!” on Friday (Feb. 28) at Immaculate Conception Church’s Parish Hall bringing the feel of New Orleans to Fort Smith.
An intimate crowd of partygoers helped support the museum with some coming dressed in their Mardi-Gras style attire while others chose to wear very colorful clothing. The event kicked off with cocktails at 6 pm., followed by a Cajun dinner, live auction, and dancing to a live band.
“This is the largest fundraiser we have, with all the proceeds going to support the museum’s general operating expenses,” said Leisa Gramlich, executive director of the museum. “This event allows the museum to keep offering programs for the community. This helps keep the museum going. Last year, we raised about $40,000 and we hope to do that again this year.”
Live music was provided by The Don Bailey Jazz Combo followed by Just The Chips. Bailey’s group performed for the event’s cocktail hour while Just The Chips played a variety of styles of music after dinner.
“Just the Chips is a young, local band that is very talented. They’re very good live, and it’s great to give young musicians and artists a chance to be a part of this thing that helps the community,” Gramlich said.
“We at the museum encourage young people in the community, too,” she added. “Encouraging young people to get involved in the community is what our museum is about. We are striving to attract a younger crowd.”
Just The Chips consists of a group of high school students who met at Trinity Junior High and began playing together. Ethan Echols and Greg Thomas started the band and have been playing together since 6th grade. The other members joined during their junior high years. They have been playing parties, carnivals and other events for three years.
Music is a big part of their lives and they say it will continue to be as they prepare to get ready for bigger and better things. They are not only musically talented, but are also smart. Their ACT scores range between 32-36.
The wine pull was once again a popular event at the party as was the 50/50 raffle. The winner of the 50/50 donated the winnings back to the museum. New this year was a photo booth. Despite the tight economy, auction items sold at higher bids this year compared to last year. All in all, the party was a great success with hopes that the goal of $40,000 was met.