The Reporter (Vacaville)

Mardi Gras marches in to Six Flags

Amusement park begins festival with Southern food, and entertainm­ent

- By Thomas Gase tgase@timesheral­

Rolling down Interstate 40, New Orleans is about 2,223 miles away from Vallejo.

Marc Merino wants to bring Mardi Gras a little closer.

For the first time in the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's history, the park is hosting a Mardi Gras Festival, set to run on weekends through Feb. 26 as well as Presidents Day. Guests can join in on the festivitie­s with an array of delicious Cajun food offerings, special live entertainm­ent, colorful décor and familiar characters, along with rides and animal attraction­s.

“We're incredibly excited because there aren't a lot of Mardi Gras festivitie­s on this side of the country,” Merino, the Marketing And Public Relations Manager of Six Flags, said. “So we thought we'd bring some of that Southern charm to this side of the country in Northern California. It's great because it's food, a lot of colorful decoration­s and entertainm­ent. Really we wanted to keep offering our guests something new every time they come to the park.”

Merino has never been to Mardi Gras, but he was told by other team members from Louisiana what to do.

The biggest thing? “One hundred percent it's the food. We've been told the one thing we had to nail if we wanted to do this right is the food. We've had some early taste tests with them and they told us that we've nailed it,” Merino said.

Merino said the best food he's had so far is the Shrimp Po' Boy, but there are plenty of options to choose from. Some of the food that Six Flags is offering include:

• Chicken and Sausage Gumbo over Rice with Cornbread.

• Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo over Rice with Cornbread.

• Festival Fried Okra.

• Shrimp Boil with Sausage, Corn on the Cob, Potatoes, and Cornbread.

• New Orleans King Cake Cinnamon Roll.

• Big Easy Cotton Candy. Also on tap is live bands playing music from New Orleans.

“That part of the country is definitely known for its jazz,” Merino said. “So we wanted to make sure we brought that jazz feel to the park. Once again, something completely different. We've never had that before but it creates a whole different atmosphere.”

Among the musical attraction­s is the Honor Brass Band, led by Daniel Herrera and also featuring saxophone tenor Brian Campbell, John Gove on trombone, Rick Brown on Tuba as well as Blake Ritterman on percussion. All the members are from the Bay Area.

“We've been a band for five years and we'll have different members here throughout the celebratio­n but always five people,” Campbell said. “The band hasn't been to New Orleans, but we're going to try and channel that New Orleans sound and bring it here.”

Vallejoan Ryan Robles was in the process of getting painted up — part of his duty with the bands — on Saturday morning.

“I'm looking forward to the big party and just having fun and hanging out with people and making sure everybody is having fun and getting beads,” Robles said. “For today it took about 30 to 40 minutes to get dressed up. We have airbrush paint and on top of that brush paint and then we also have people in glitter. The hard part is taking it all off, which takes another 30 to 40 minutes”

Robles has never been to New Orleans, but he isn't ruling out a trip.

“I have a desire to one day go to New Orleans and travel. For sure,” Robles said. “I'm still pretty young so I'm sure I'll do it one day.”

With the park not adding new rides this year, Merino is happy to add new events.

“We always strive to offer new fund memorable experience­s for guests and new events are the way to do that,” Merino said. “Mardi Gras was the first on the list. We have spring break coming up soon. We have a few more events that we're not quite ready to talk about yet, but they are in the works.”

 ?? CHRIS RILEY — TIMES-HERALD ?? Members of the Honor Brass Band play music if New Orleans flair as they walk around Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to kickoff the Mardi Gras festival on Saturday in Vallejo.
CHRIS RILEY — TIMES-HERALD Members of the Honor Brass Band play music if New Orleans flair as they walk around Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to kickoff the Mardi Gras festival on Saturday in Vallejo.

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