January 22, 2011 9:34:00 PM
Tim Pratt -
STARKVILLE -- Organizers of Starkville''s annual Dudy Gras celebration are offering more activities at this year''s event than ever before.
Dudy Gras 5.5, a celebration of Mardi Gras and the Mississippi State University baseball team''s eight trips to the College World Series, will take place between Feb. 4 and Feb. 12 throughout the Golden Triangle''s westernmost city.
A new feature this year is the Red Beans and Rice Cook-Off, which will take place Feb. 4 on Main Street in downtown Starkville. Amateur teams will compete with their best recipes for awards such as "Best Beans," "People''s Choice" and "Best Decorated Booth." Cooking begins at noon and tasting will begin at 4 p.m.
The public is encouraged to cheer on the teams and will be allowed to sample the final dishes for free, just prior to the start of the Dudy Gras Parade. The parade will begin at 4:30 p.m., travel down Main Street and University Drive, then end in the Left Field Lounge at Dudy Noble Field.
Feb. 5 will mark the start of "8 Days of Dudy Gras." A different local restaurant will play host to the celebration every day and feature Mardi Gras and Cajun-themed foods, unique menu items and drink specials.
Businesses included in the eight-day tour include Ptolemy''s Taproom, City Bagel Café, The Little Dooey, Restaurant Tyler, Old Venice Pizza Company, Mugshots, Central Station Grill and The Veranda. The Veranda will host a masquerade Feb. 12 to close out the Dudy Gras celebration. Aside from a festive Mardi Gras atmosphere, the event will have music and appetizers, and those who attend are encouraged to wear masks and Mardi Gras attire.
Tickets for the masquerade cost $15, but people who take part in activities on previous days will receive a punch card, and if a person takes part in specials at five restaurants, he or she can enter the masquerade for free.
This is the sixth year Starkville has hosted a Dudy Gras celebration. The event''s original organizers -- Hobie Hobart, Chip Carley, Eric Halburg and Sumner Davis -- had to cancel the Dudy Gras parade during the inaugural event, but held their own celebration at a local bar. The name of the event, Dudy Gras 5.5, is a reference to that first year, when the organizers gave themselves only half credit.
The Starkville Main Street Association is sponsoring this year''s Dudy Gras events.
"We at the Starkville Main Street Association are thrilled about the opportunity to grow Dudy Gras from a wonderful local event to a week-long festival that will allow local residents and visitors to experience the authenticity and variety of some of Starkville''s greatest restaurants, while celebrating one of Starkville''s favorite past times, MSU baseball," said Robyn Cain, Starkville Main Street Association program coordinator.
To register a team for the Red Beans & Rice Cook-off, enter a float in the Dudy Gras Parade, purchase tickets for the Dudy Gras Masquerade at the Veranda Restaurant, or become a sponsor of the nine-day festival, contact Cain at 662-323-3322 or firstname.lastname@example.org.