News: 'Bringing the bayou to Bliss'
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Veasley
EL PASO, Texas - “Laissez les bon temps rouler,” or let the good times roll, echoed through the produce aisles of the Fort Bliss Commissary Feb. 12.
The commissary took on the mission of getting the Fort Bliss area into the party spirit by bringing Mardi Gras here in a most spectacular way.
The commissary kicked off Fat Tuesday with the first Mardi Gras Parade with approximately 30 different festive floats created from shopping carts. Each shopping cart float had its own unique theme and Mardi Gras flavor.
“I absolutely love it, it takes me back to my youth back in New Orleans,” said Dominique Jean-Batiste, a Louisiana native. “I just came up in here to get some eggs and hamburger meat and got more than I bargained for. I just wish they had some crawdad’s (crawfish), and then we will be really partying hard.”
Most Mardi Gras practices involve parades, colorful beads, wearing masks, costumes, sumptuous eating and elaborate self expression. The colorful beads and design of the floats bring excitement and character to Mardi Gras, but for one El Paso native the vibrant colors represent a lot more.
“Purple means justice, green means faith and gold means power,” said Cecilia Lozano. “The colors are the most important part of Mardi Gras to me.”
“Mardi Gras,” is French for Fat Tuesday, which refers to the last night of eating fattening foods prior to the fasting season of Lent, which begins on the following Wednesday which is “Ash Wednesday”.
“Mardi Gras is more than a tradition,” said Michael Oatis, a Gulf Port, Miss., native.
“There is nothing like being down on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, but this is the closest I am going to get to being back home. I am blessed that my son gets to see this parade here. I am very pleased with how the commissary presented this event,” said Oatis.
Though the parade was on a volunteer basis, many Fort Bliss programs were in attendance to share in the Mardi Gras experience.
“We heard about this event at the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers meeting and we had to come out and support Fort Bliss and the commissary employees,” said Lora Diem, special event coordinator for the Morale Welfare Recreation. “I can’t think of a better way to spend Fat Tuesday other than out here with the Soldiers and their families sharing the Mardi Gras spirit.”
The majority of the floats were made out of recycled paper and recycled goods, which is environmentally friendly. The Fort Bliss Commissary presented awards to the best float design and the MWR donated funds to units that participated in this event.
“I have never seen so many people excited and that’s the best part of this event for me. We wanted to give back to the community and allow soldiers and their families an opportunity to experience Mardi Gras here at Fort Bliss,” said Keith Pollanen, Store manager for the Fort Bliss Commissary.
Pollanen said that this is the first of many Mardi Gras events they will have at the Fort Bliss Commissary.