Downtown Beaufort got a taste of Mardi Gras on Monday, as a "flash parade" led by a local brass band made its way to the city waterfront in the name of charity.
About 80 people marched down the sidewalk along West Street and into Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park after an event Monday night to benefit HELP of Beaufort.
The Mardi Gras-themed celebration originated at Old Bull Tavern in Beaufort, which normally holds "Stone Soup Night" each Monday. On Stone Soup Nights, Old Bull owner and chef John Marshall cooks a large pot of soup and serves it for free. Patrons usually bring donations of food or money for local charities as currency for the night. Marshall said previous charity events at the tavern included a "pop-up" oyster roast to benefit the Lowcountry Food Bank.
Stone Soup Nights are typically accompanied by live music. With Mardi Gras celebrations taking place in New Orleans the same week, bartender Stacie Kaiser Van Vulpen and The Bull Grapes band member Kirk Dempsey came up with the idea to infuse a New Orleans theme, Marshall said.
That's where Liberty Risk, the band that led the parade, came in. The band, made up of professional musicians and active-duty Marines, was modeled after walking bands similar to those in New Orleans, trumpeter Nathan Johnson said.
"We hadn't done anything like this before," he said. "We usually hang around Waterfront Park and play. We had played an oyster roast in Port Royal recently, but nothing like Monday."
Feedback has been positive -- the band has even received a few requests to play other events, Johnson said.
The original plan was for the parade to move through the streets and a cemetery, as typical Mardi Gras parades do, but those plans were changed after asking the city of Beaufort about a parade permit. A parade, city officials said, would need police supervision. So the march was changed to stick to the West Street sidewalk and Waterfront Park.
Marshall said about 60 revelers from the tavern followed the band, and about 20 more joined along the way to Waterfront Park. The "flash parade" lasted about 20 minutes, Marshall said.
In all, the event raised a "truckload" of cash, clothing and food for HELP of Beaufort, a volunteer nonprofit that provides emergency assistance, Marshall said.
Attempts Thursday to contact HELP of Beaufort director Steve Curless were unsuccessful.
The success of the event has Marshall thinking about Mardi Gras 2015.
"I think we'll do it again next year," he said. "We want to go big and try to help people raise money for a good cause." Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.