Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mardi Gras - Mexican Style!

One of the biggest parties of the season happened this week in Loreto Bay – Mardi Gras, Mexican style!  This was the second annual celebration of “Fat Tuesday” and the party got even bigger and better than last year’s (“Mardi Gras in Loreto Bay”, February 2012) inaugural event.

The main instigator of this year’s festivities was the Nopolo Property Owners Association including my friend Shelia, and her husband Manfred.  This group is made up of Owners in the area surrounding Loreto Bay and, along with a dedicated team of volunteers, they spent much time in planning and preparation for this event for months in advance.  But the actual preparations on the ground were in full force during the day of the party, when the Golf Clubhouse was transformed by a crew of over a dozen, including Loreto Bay residents, who hung decorations, set up a temporary stage in the Clubhouse Courtyard which would be the dance floor, arranged bars and food stations and set out and decorated tables and chairs under tents for over 200 party goers.

I dropped over to check out the preparations earlier in the afternoon and was impressed with the “hive” of activity that was going on in and around the Clubhouse.  A crew of men was setting up a cluster of shade tents on the edge of the driving range and then arranging dozens of tables and hundreds of chairs under them.  There were two large open air grills with motor driven spits, each loaded with a full pork carcass slowly roasting over a bed coals that were replenished over the 6 – 8 hour cooking time from a fire barrel burning mesquite and ironwood.

The festivities got underway late afternoon, with the only blemish being that it was an unseasonably cool day, albeit sunny, and there were gusty winds, which thankfully died down somewhat as the evening approached.  Upon arrival people’s names were checked off against a list of presales which had been available at a number of businesses in town and Loreto Bay, and then we were given a wristband and drink tickets and some Carnival beads, to get in the mood.

The large open air Courtyard at the Clubhouse provided a great place to mingle and meet, see and be seen, and this year there was plenty to see – with even more costumes than last year, many exotic and dazzling to be sure! Lessons were applied from last year’s event and the logistics worked well, food and beverage stations were set up along the south and west exterior of the building, with the Brazilian Coconut Chicken entrée available on one side and the Spit-Roasted Pork on the other, with a third area in between where you could pick up the salads and side dishes.  With bars on each side serving the traditional Hurricanes, along with wine, beer and water, the traffic flowed well around the building and even the food lines moved more easily with the different entrées being served in separate areas.

When most people had arrived the entertainment began, with a solo Flamenco dancer and a quartet of Mexican folk dancers providing a colorful start to the evening’s festivities.  They were soon followed by Los Beach Dogs – the ever popular house band for any noteworthy events in Loreto Bay.  This time the ‘Dogs were backed up by a local Loretano drummer who added the backbeat that got people up - and kept them dancing through the evening.

Those who were not indulging their “dance feet” (or watching those who were) on the Courtyard dance floor, found places at the tables under the tents where they could visit and socialize while enjoying watching the sunset a few drinks and nibbling on snacks and appetizers .  This was a great opportunity for people watching and appreciating the time and thought that had gone into some of the more amazing costumes.       

As it was beginning to get dark, and the gusty winds were thankfully subsiding, food began to be served and lines quickly formed – and kept moving steadily, no small feat when it comes to feeding over 200 people!  The band called a break to enjoy their own dinners, and soon most of the tables and chairs were full of people enjoying their delicious meals.  While we were eating, another singer took the stage and serenaded the crowd with Mariachi-style songs to a recorded back up and then moved outside with his cordless mike and put on a side show for the diners.

After the break for dinner the ‘Dogs retook the stage and kept the dance floor jammed for the rest of the evening, meanwhile people moved easily around the colonnade surrounding the courtyard – listening to the music, watching the dancers and enjoying each other’s costumes and conversations or moved outside to refresh their drinks at one of the bars – because, even though the wind wasn’t blowing, the Hurricanes were flowing (if you get my drift!).

As the evening wound down and it was getting close to “Baja Midnight” (anytime after about 9:00 pm here) Shelia once again took to the stage and announced a number of individual costume prizes for some of the most outstanding getups.  Along with these (that space and my faulty memory prevent me from fully listing here) I too was selected to win - for which I was most grateful, although the category of “funniest” men’s costume, left me a little confused – recognition in any form is always welcome!  Let’s face it, the opportunities for wearing my McNabb tartan kilt here in Mexico are few and far between, but I trust the category was not a comment about my knees!

And so, another celebration came to an end, and as I made the short walk back to my home that evening I was struck again by what a unique and special community we are building here – big enough to successfully stage a party like this for over 200 people, and yet small enough so that most of the people there - knew most of the people there!  People from Loreto Bay and the surrounding neighborhood, Loretanos and ex-pats from town, all coming together to share the spirit of celebration and many of them going to great lengths to plan ahead and bring a costume in their luggage, or make it from scratch – or pull something together with last minute inspiration.  Making their special contribution to the magical energy of a special evening of Carnival spirit – that is what makes it special “Living Loreto”!