The Fort Smith Museum of History continued its tradition of hosting "The Best Party in Town" on Friday (Feb. 13) night with its annual Mardi Gras bash. Four hundred guests made their way to Immaculate Conception Parish Hall in Fort Smith to lend their support for the museum and celebrate Carnival in style.
The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour at 6 p.m. Guests sipped delicious drinks, while enjoying music by the Don Bailey Jazz Combo, before sitting down for dinner. The menu featured authentic Cajun cuisine including Bourbon Chicken, Blackened Tilapia with creamy crawfish Creole sauce, and Andouille sausage with sautéed bell pepper and onions. Dessert was a "N’awlins style" spice cake with praline icing. Guests seated at premier tables also enjoyed traditional King Cakes, baked by museum curator, Connie Manning.
Following dinner and drinks, the program and live auction got underway. Master of Ceremonies Daren Bobb was given some help by co-auctioneer Doug Schwartz, who worked the crowd to drive up auction prices. A dozen packages were up for grabs, including a Barefoot Beach Resort Getaway and a Train Excursion for six through the Boston Mountains. Party packages included a Murder and Mayhem Trolley Tour for 24 guests, a Wine Tasting event for 30 at the Museum of History, and a Twelfth Night Dinner at the home of Jo Ann and Gary Campbell.
A Bass Reeves framed print autographed by artist Harold Holden was also up for bid as a silent auction item. Holden is the sculptor of the famed Bass Reeves statue in Fort Smith. In addition to the auctions, a 50/50 drawing and wine pull were held, giving guests the chance to win big throughout the night.
The evening concluded with live music and dancing. Guests boogied into the late hours to the tunes of Tom Ware, Gary Hutchison and Friends.
Started in the mid-90s, Mardi Gras serves as the museum's signature fundraiser, raising valuable dollars to support general operating expenses. The event has earned the reputation as one of the area's most entertaining celebrations.
"It is what keeps the doors open," said Leisa Gramlich, Executive Director of the Fort Smith Museum of History.
Tickets for the event were $75. Mardi Gras annually generates approximately $40,000 for the museum. Organizers hope to meet or exceed that total again this year.
"The mission of the Fort Smith Museum of History is to acquire, preserve, exhibit and interpret objects of historical significance relevant to the founding and growth of Fort Smith and the region," said Gramlich. "This is accomplished through exhibits which illustrate the contributions of its diverse citizenry to the cultural, political and economic development of their environment and are designed for purposes of study, education and enjoyment. Education services which are appropriate to these goals, both within the context of the museum and the larger community, and are integral to the museum’s mission."
The Fort Smith Museum of History is located in downtown's historic Atkinson-Williams Warehouse. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum houses approximately 40,000 artifacts chronicling the city’s history. It welcomes various traveling exhibitions throughout the year and is home to several permanent displays including the William O. Darby Memorial Room, a replica courtroom of Judge Isaac C. Parker, and an interactive display depicting the region’s broadcast history. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 783-7841.