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Wild Shiners Kick Off Mardi Gras Celebrations in Lake Wales

Annual Black-Light Ball the Traditional Start of Season

A night of colorful costumes and celebrations has officially initiated the 2023 Carnival season in Lake Wales.

The Krewe of Wild Shiners hosted their traditional "Black Light Ball" Saturday night, the first of several events spread over the 10-day Lake Wales Mardi Gras.

The popular festivities will continue this week, with 10 bands scheduled to appear at the Mardi Gras Music Festival in Lake Wailes Park beginning Friday afternoon. The concerts continue on Saturday, with the highlighting Mardi Gras Parade, featuring a dozen Krewes, stepping off on Saturday afternoon on the streets of downtown Lake Wales.

The Coop, a pub located on Scenic Highway, hosted well over 100 revelers for the party, which featured two bands and plenty of glowing costumes illuminated by liberal placement of black lights throughout the room. Entertainment by the Joe Willy Band and Black-Eyed Soozie brought the crowd to its feet to dance to the driving rhythms.

The traditional celebration of the pre-Lenten carnival happens in scores of countries across Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America. It was introduced in Lake Wales in 1984, after the passing of the owner of Vinton's New Orleans Restaurant. That Stuart Avenue venue was a popular gathering place, and Vinton Davis was a huge fan of traditional New Orleans-style Dixieland Jazz. Davis's unfulfilled wish for a New Orleans funeral, with his coffin led to a cemetery by a jazz band, became the reason for the first short parade along Park and Stuart Avenues, marked by the jazz music of Al's Place Band, led by long-time restaurateur Al Rattay.

The celebration has continued over the decades with a changing line-up of krewes, each of which participates in a steering committee.

Other events include a 5K "Glow Run" Friday evening along the shores of Lake Wailes. For details of the activities see Our FUN Section or check out our Community Calendar.

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