When Wega Arts held its first Mardi Gras Bash last year, little did those planning the celebration realize they were continuing a tradition from long ago.
Ian Teal, executive director of the non-profit arts organization, recently discovered the Gerold Opera House hosted such a bash as early as 1917.
The opera house opened in downtown Weyauwega in 1915, and as Teal looked at microfiche of past issues of “The Weyauwega Chronicle,” he came across information in the Jan. 31, 1917, issue about a Masquerade Ball.
That ball was held at the opera house on Feb. 15, 1917, and included music, cash prizes for best costumes and a midnight supper.
Dance tickets were 75 cents for masked or unmasked men, 50 cents for masked women and 25 cents for unmasked women.
Spectators paid 25 cents.
Kathy Fehl, artistic director of Wega Arts, said Teal was looking at old issues of “The Weyauwega Chronicle,” because the Gerold Opera House has been nominated for Wisconsin’s historical register.
As a result, they are working on a detailed history about the opera house.
In 2007, Fehl and Teal formed Wega Arts, applied for non-profit status and purchased the opera house.
Since then, they have worked to bring the performing arts, film workshops and the visual arts to the community, while also raising funds to renovate the opera house.
The Mardi Gras Bash was planned last year as a way to bring a fun, colorful event to the area in the midst of the winter season, Fehl said.
“People had a great time last year, so we decided to do it again,” she said.
The second annual Mardi Gras Bash is set for Saturday, Feb. 9.
It is Wega Arts’ first event of the year and its winter fundraiser to benefit the renovation of the classrooms and dressing rooms in the lower level of the opera house.
Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, the day before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
This year, Ash Wednesday is on Feb. 13.
Like the Masquerade Ball of the 1900s, this year’s event in Weyauwega will include music, food and prizes.
The opera house’s doors will open at 6 p.m., with appetizers and a cash bar featuring Central Waters Beer and Hurricanes.
Beads and masks will be provided to those who attend, and the Cajun dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m.
At 7:30 p.m., the band “Copper Box” will begin playing.
“Copper Box” is an accordion-fueled roots rock band from Oshkosh.
Fehl said the band will play a variety of styles of music, including the traditional Zydeco music of New Orleans – something last year’s attendees requested – and also rock and jazz.
Those who want to dance will have room to do so.
Since last year’s Mardi Gras, the opera house’s theater seats were removed and replaced with banquet tables.
King Cake – baked with a small, plastic baby inside of it and another Fat Tuesday tradition – will also be served. In addition, there will be a crowning of the night’s king and queen.
Another feature of the bash will be a Second Line Umbrella March, yet another symbol of the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans.
Tickets for the Feb. 9 event are $25 and are available oline at wegaarts.org, at the Book Cellar in Waupaca and at the Coffee Klatsch in Weyauwega. The deadline to purchase tickets is Feb. 5.
Details about buying a table for eight are also available on Wega Arts’ website.
“Feel free to come in costume,” Fehl said. “We encourage it. There will be lots of games, prizes and auction items throughout the evening.”