"Laissez les bons temps rouler" (let the good times roll!): It’s Carnivale time in Manitou Springs. The town is more than 1,200 miles from New Orleans, where the Cajun French phrase is the motto, but there are plenty of good times to be had locally.
The fun kicks off Friday with the Fire & Ice CarniBall Masquerade. Memorial Hall inside Manitou Springs City Hall will be transformed into a casino floor with blackjack and craps tables, live music from Colorado Springs band U-Turn Brass, fire performers, readings by Jaye from Manitou Metaphysical and a traditional Cajun buffet created by chef Robert “BB” Brunet from Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen and chef Lyn Harwell.
“It’s the second year we’ve done the CarniBall. What we started with last year is not only nominating and voting on a king and queen of Carnivale, which has happened every year, but two dukes and two maids also. This year’s court is king and queen Lyn and Laura Ettinger-Harwell, maids Natalie Johnson and MaryAnn Lawless, and dukes Chicken George and Mark Wong,” said Jenna Gallas, special event coordinator for Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Bureau & Office of Economic Development.
Ticket-holders will receive $500 in chips and winnings will go toward raffles for door prizes. All are encouraged to dress up in their best Fire & Ice-themed attire.
”It’s Manitou-esque,” Gallas said. “You’ll look odd if you’re not fully decked out.”
On Saturday, 18 chefs, both amateur and professional, will gather at Soda Springs Park to create gumbos to be judged in a cook-off. The competition is in its 22nd year.
”From what I’ve heard, it’s all about the roux,” Gallas said. “We award prizes for both categories. First prize is $100 and a trophy, second prize nets $50 and a trophy, third prize gets $25 and a trophy, and there’s also a showmanship award ($25 ‘Manitou bucks’) and a People’s Choice award ($50 ‘Manitou bucks’).” Fork over $1 per two tastings and vote for your fave gumbo for the latter prize.
All are welcome to walk in Saturday’s parade — the town’s 27th annual. Just leave the political slogans at home, get that costume back on and line up in Memorial Park at 12:30 p.m. for the 1 p.m. procession down Manitou Avenue.
Gallas encourages Carnivale event attendees to stick around in costume for live music at Manitou Springs establishments Friday and Saturday nights.
“It’s not weird. People in Manitou expect it,” she said. “When else are you going to put that costume on and be seen in it?”