Ay, Chihuahua, what a party! The 2012 Mardi Gras for United Way of Calvert County proved to be a success in its new venue—Solomons. The riverboat motif had attendees going overboard at the Holiday Inn Conference Center and Marina.

Local United Way CEO Kelly Chambers announced the March 10 event was a sellout one week in advance and the three candidates for Mardi Gras Queen and the three vying for Mardi Gras King had raised a combined $84,000. Chambers said the goal was to net $100,000, money that will be used to support Calvert United Way’s 30-plus umbrella agencies.

Shortly after 8 p.m. the suspense ended as Chambers announced Keely Tolley had won the queen competition and the event’s new king was Saquane Johnson.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Johnson, who bested Mike Hart and Jason Scaggs in the competition.

The candidates held various fundraisers with each dollar raised counting as one vote. When asked if he thought one particular fundraising strategy may have put him over the top, Johnson replied, “I don’t think it was any particular event. It was just the community.”  

“I feel proud,” said Tolley, who competed with Patt Parker and Anissa Swanzy in the queen category. Tolley teamed up with her pet Chihuahua Cinnamon and employed a variety of events in the drive to earn dollars. The strategy included a corn hole tournament, flamingo “flocking,” baking and selling rum cakes. In addition to Cinnamon, Tolley credited her family, especially her mother, with aiding in the campaign.

Prior to the announcement of the new royal team, the 2011 King and Queen—Amber Yurko and John McGuffin—waved to the crowd, saluted the winners and turned their crowns over to Tolley and Johnson.

In addition to a New Orleans style repast, Mardi Gras attendees enjoyed riverboat casino gaming, purchased tickets for a “Razzle Dazzle” jewelry raffle, bid on a variety of silent auction items and enjoyed both live and recorded music.

Tolley and Johnson will wear their crowns until next March.