The hosts -- generally acknowledged to be David Ford of Y.J.'s Snack Bar and KC sculptor Stretch -- estimate that last year's turnout drew around 2,000 people, compared to the previous year's 600. Just how elegantly discombobulated was last year's march down 18th Street, which culminated in a party at Stretch's Zone Gallery at 1830 Locust? Because many of the revelers who claim to have been there suffer from SML (selective memory loss, brought on by "so much liquor"), only the photographic evidence tells the tale.
So we offer a few of the highlights caught on film. Look, there's Mayor Kay Barnes handing a minuscule key to the city to Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. Here's an action shot of the Pythons Drill Team punishing the pavement at 18th and Wyandotte. And here's a guy in olive drab passed out against a cotton-candy machine attended by Peregrine Honig of the Birdies undies shop. Here's one shot of girls in overstuffed diapers flapping their arms in the street to the Dirty Force New Orleans-style jazz band, and here's a pic of two soggy twentysomethings making googly eyes at each other in front of a popular portable potty.
From here, the photos get fuzzy. A camera set up for night shots might have caught a '69 Dodge Charger piñata in flames in an empty lot across from the Zone Gallery, where the parade of floats made berth (one equipped with a bacon-making grill) and KCPD officers sprayed champagne on the crowd. Oh, wait -- that was mace.
Stretch signed a whole stack of permits the other day to legalize the hedonistic mess. "We've been telling people, 'Don't tell anyone when it is. It's going to suck. Find something else to do instead. Watch it on the news,'" he deadpans.
But event organizer Bob Asher has some concrete reasons to assume that this year will go more smoothly -- namely, the climate. Last year's mild temperatures should be replaced by colder air this time, which could signal the event's return to its humbler roots.
"Mardi Gras in Kansas City is a function of the weather, which is almost always miserable," Asher says. "The march is a battle of attrition, for sure. And it's not a city-sanctioned march but more of an exodus. The block party ends at 10 p.m., and so everyone just happens to make their way from Wyandotte to the afterparty at the same time."
Tuesday kicks off the eighth annual event with the Y.J.'s Street Party at 5 p.m., promising elaborate costumes, beads and the usual Mardi Gras strangeness. The parade hiccups down 18th Street from Wyandotte to Locust around 10 p.m. From there, the revelry continues with DJs Superwolf and Fat Sal at the Brick (1727 McGee). The floats' followers should wind up at Stretch's Zone Gallery till 1-ish, at Grinder's Pizza Shop (417 East 18th Street) till 3-ish, and in the streets until everyone goes home -- or until the police reprise their imitation of Mount Vesuvius on Pompeii.
Which, incidentally, would make a really fantastic theme for a costume.