United Way of Calvert County 2017 Mardi Gras candidates

United Way of Calvert County 2017 Mardi Gras Candidates, top, left to right, Billy Saunders, Bonnie Barrett and James Risinger; bottom, left to right, Denise Collins and Michael O’Shea.

Solomons, MD – For nearly two decades United Way of Calvert County has host a huge bash that gives locals a sample of the universal celebration known as Mardi Gras. The event, first held in 2000 at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, was initially held to help the local United Way pay the mortgage on its headquarters on Main Street in Prince Frederick. The 2002 event led to a reevaluation prompted a few months earlier by the Attack on America. The event subsequently went south—geographically—to Solomons and for the past few years has been held at Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center. The fundraiser now aids United Way of Calvert’s umbrella agencies with programs that improve the education, financial stability and health of county residents.

“We are almost sold out,” said United Way of Calvert County President and CEO Kelly Chambers, who explained that the limit is about 350 for the Saturday, March 4 event. Local United Way officials are hoping the event will hit its $110,000 goal.

The five candidates hoping to reign over the local Mardi Gras celebration—three gentlemen vying to be king and two ladies hoping to be crowned queen—are continuing to raise money. The candidates are: King – attorney Michael O’Shea, combat veteran counselor James Risinger and mortgage banker Billy Saunders; Queen – bank manager Bonnie Barrett and Elcon Enterprises employee Denise Collins.

“The candidates are still working hard and still having [fundraising] events,” said Chambers, who added that voting will continue until Wednesday, March 1. Each dollar donated to a candidate counts as one vote. Chambers said online voting is available through the local United Way web site.

United Way of Calvert County’s 2017 Mardi Gras will again be a New Orleans-style costume party/black tie affair that features Cajun food—prepared and served by Elegance by Maryland Country Caterers, gaming, plus live entertainment. The headliners for the 2017 United Way of Calvert County Mardi Gras will be the band Moonshine Society. Entertaining with live music in the tented speakeasy lounge will be the band Funkzilla. Additionally, strolling entertainers, musicians and stilt walkers will be mingling with Mardi Gras-goers. Other highlights of the evening include the Bourbon Street Silent Auction, which gives participants the opportunity to place and track bids directly from smartphones; and the always popular Razzle Dazzle Raffle, which lets one grand prize winner take home roughly $8,000 in jewelry and accessories donated by Maertens Fine Jewelry and Gifts.

“We do have a surprise for guests for that night,” said Chambers, who declined to reveal the surprise or give any hints. During past Mardi Gras galas the identity of the winning candidates was revealed early in the program. Chambers said 2017 will be different and the coronations will occur as the evening draws to a close.

According to Chambers, an army of about 30 volunteers has been recruited to set up and decorate the venue for Mardi Gras. That work will begin Thursday. The dismantling will be conducted Sunday and Chambers stated she is still looking for volunteers to help with that.

Here’s some good news for revelers planning to really tie one on March 4 at Mardi Gras. As always, United Way of Calvert County is encouraging guests to plan for a safe ride home. Hilton Garden Inn in Solomons, located about a block away from Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center, has set aside a block of rooms that are still available at a reduced rate. Parking will be available at the Hilton, with a shuttle available to all Mardi Gras guests. Southern Maryland Uber drivers will be accessible all evening via the Uber app, as well. 

For more information on United Way of Calvert County and the 2017 Mardi Gras, visit the local United Way’s web site.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com