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click to enlarge 2006 LAURA MONTGOMERY
  • 2006 LAura Montgomery

While far from rivaling the generations of traditional events in New Orleans, the Pikes Peak region's most prominent version of Mardi Gras is well on its way toward adulthood.

This will be the 15th year for the Manitou Springs celebration known as Carnivale, complete with a parade, gumbo cook-off and other events on Saturday, Feb. 17.

The 2007 parade's theme will be "With a Little Help From Our Friends," as organizers again plan to attract the masses while honoring Gulf Coast evacuees displaced by the hurricanes of 2005. The area's military families also will be invited to take part.

"We're reaching out to those groups, starting with our costume and puppet-building workshops," said Jack Elder, head of the Carnivale organizers. "But we're also hoping many of them will want to walk in the parade."

Elder estimates that about 1,300 Gulf Coast evacuees still are living in the Colorado Springs area.

As usual, the parade route will start at Manitou's Memorial Park (east of City Hall, alongside Fountain Creek) and continue up Manitou Avenue through the downtown area before ending at Soda Springs Park. Like last year, a free shuttle service will run from the town's motels to downtown Manitou.

The shuttle will run after the parade until about 11 p.m., and several Manitou motels are planning packages that will encourage visitors to stay overnight.

The agenda for Carnivale:

You can first get involved by designing and constructing Mardi Gras masks, costumes and puppets. Manitou public art group Concrete Couch will hold its first public workshops from noon to 4 p.m. on Jan. 27 and 28, at the Business of Art Center (515 Manitou Ave.). Other workshops will follow on Feb. 10 and 11. Come with ideas, and if you have any art supplies, feel free to bring those, too. Groups interested in participating can reserve space by calling Andrew Scott at 761-1853.

To attend a Carnivale fundraiser, visit The Townhouse Lounge (907 Manitou Ave.) at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3, to see The Big Ivory Ticklers. Suggested donation is $5. For more information, call 685-1085. Or, to donate separately, contact Jack Elder at 685-4317.

If you act fast, you also can register to compete in the Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo Cook-Off. Starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, the cook-off features professional and amateur divisions. Each competitor supplies five gallons of gumbo. Public tastings, two for $1 for as long as the gumbo lasts, begin at 11 a.m. Applications, other rules and prize information are available at the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce; call 685-5089.

Finally, to march in the parade, just put on a costume and show up at Manitou's Memorial Park, either individually or in a group, before noon on Saturday, Feb. 17. Musical instruments, bands and human- and animal-powered floats are welcome. No motorized vehicles are allowed.

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