The idea started 14 years ago during a conversation between Maria Daniele and Diane Burris.
Their curiosity for cuisine and cultures from the New Orleans Carnival inspired them to develop a week-long, musical celebration that started on Fat Tuesday in downtown Williamsport.
"We literally planned the event one month prior to the celebration," she said. "We really didn't know what to expect, but were pleased with the results."
According to Daniele, that year, more than a thousand people filled the streets.
"It was amazing," she said.
Every year since, the celebration has continued to grow, with more businesses participating than the previous year.
Today, Mardi Gras in Williamsport has grown to be one of the largest gatherings in the region.
"The idea was to showcase area businesses and encourage residents to come back to our city's beautiful downtown," Daniele said.
Well, it worked. And this year, the tradition continues and the fun begins today!
Numerous area businesses will offer live entertainment and food and drink specials. On Saturday, a parade is scheduled along Fourth Street between Market and Hepburn streets.
The nine area businesses, which organize and sponsor the event, are the Genetti Hotel, Franco's Lounge, Bullfrog Brewery, Cell Block, Rumrunners Pub and Eatery, The Old Corner, The Pub, The Coffee and Tea Room and Club Z. In addition to food, drink and live entertainment, the Genetti Hotel will offer all-inclusive room packages. To reserve a room, or for additional information, call 326-6600 or visit www.genettihotel.com.
The parade, which begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, will end in front of City Hall, where the coronation of the new king or queen will take place.
The way the crowning of the king or queen works is as follows: The participating businesses nominate either a king or queen, and whoever raises the most money is crowned the winner.
Inside each establishment, partygoers may place money inside a nominated person's jug in order to cast their vote.
The event will include numerous floats and music by the Uptown Music Collective.
Stilt-walkers Rain and Autumn Bell, along with other people adorned in festive costumes, will be part of the festivities, throwing candy and beads to onlookers throughout the course of the parade. Fireworks immediately will follow the ceremony.
According to Daniele, last year's parade was held in the afternoon. This year, organizers wanted to return to the way things were and hold the parade in the evening.
"It works better with the closing ceremonies and fireworks," she said.
Organizers said the parade is family oriented and a lot of fun for kids. Many of the same volunteers that participate in the Mummers Day parade participate in Mardi Gras.
Daniele said one nice thing about the Mardi Gras celebration is the support area businesses receive from city officials and dignitaries.
"Our elected officials and police department all support our efforts and work together to provide a fun and safe weekend for area residents," Daniele said.
Captain of Patrol Glenn Ardrey said additional police will be on-hand to ensure a safe and fun weekend for local revelers. Daniele offered some advice for this year's attenders: If you head out for this year's Mardi Gras celebration, please drink responsibly, take extra beads and, most importantly, be mindful of others.
This year's Mardi Gras celebration in Williamsport is expected to be bigger and better than ever. With a solid line-up of local talent and top-notch cuisine, prepared by some of the finest eateries in town, this year's event has something for everyone.
For additional information regarding events and specials, visit www.wzxr.com.