People enjoying the parade as they roll their way to the Mardi Gas festival. (Photo courtesy of Allen Wallace/Bifocal Photography)

More than 4,000 people gathered Saturday to dance, sing, eat and drink while wearing the colors of Mardi Gras – purple, green, and gold.

The festival marked its 13th year at the City Roots urban farm in the Rosewood neighborhood, hosted by Krewe de Columbi-Ya Ya.

The crowd set a record, said festival communications and marketing manager Chloe Rodgers. It kicked off with a parade that began on Jim Hamilton Boulevard.

Mardi Gras Columbia started as a fundraiser when Keith and Robin Willoughby, of Wil-Moore Farms, lost their baby chicken barn in a fire. 

Friends ended up throwing them a party and a parade at City Roots with a Mardi Gras theme and 350 attendees. About 2,000 people showed up the following year. The festival has been growing ever since.

“The mission has always been to have a good time and raise some money for local causes, usually charities focusing on animals, children, and women’s issues,” according to information provided by Krewe de Columbi-Ya Ya.

This year marks the second time the festival resumed after the COVID pandemic paused all activities in 2021.

A variety of food trucks and craft vendors offered everything from seafood and Creole cuisine to jewelry and plants.

The variety of foods came from cultures across the world. 

The holidays famous King Cake, boiled crawfish, gumbo, muffulettas, jambalaya, etouffée, red beans and rice, crawfish dip and beignets were just some of the foods served.

Even though Mardi Gras is a popular annual event, some people in attendance Saturday had never experienced Mardi Gras. 

Rickey Powlas said this was only his second time attending. What did he like the most?

To “mingle and talk to people and socialize and get to know who they are,” Powlas said. “If I had to get anything, it’d be like jambalaya or Philly cheese steak.” 

Mardi Gras originated on March 3, 1699, when two French Catholic explorers landed in New Orleans, Louisiana. They celebrated together, and the day became known as “Mardi Gras” ever since. 

The term “Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday.” That’s the last day that people eat rich, fatty foods before they start the ritual fasting of Lent on Ash Wednesday leading up to Easter. 

Mardi Gras is celebrated internationally. But the festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, is the most celebrated one because of the holiday’s origin.

Also known as “Shrove Tuesday,” the holiday has its roots in traditions thousands of years old.

With most of the COVID restrictions being lifted in South Carolina, there has been an increase in attendees since the pandemic.

Kristian Niemi, Kaptain and founding member of Krewe de Columbi-Ya Ya, hopes to see the festival continue to grow in the future.

“We would love to see even more participation in the parade,” he said. “Let’s face it, it’s one of the only parades anyone can roll in. Paint your car, dress up your dog, grab an armful of beads and roll with us!”

Jerk chicken, rice and beans and cabbage are some of the foods that were served at the festival’s food trucks. (Photo by P.J. Williams)

Grand Republic was one of several bands that performed on the Front Porch at City Roots, the urban farm hosting the event. (Photo by P.J. Williams)