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Laissez les bons temps rouler; Mardi Gras fever hits Canal.

Byline: Steven H. Foskett Jr.

WORCESTER - When Wyck the fire eater blew a huge fireball in the air outside Smokestack BBQ on Green Street Tuesday night, it didn't really put a dent in the cold winter air.

But the chill, along with piles of snow up and down the street were minor hindrances to the second annual Carnaval de Canal Mardi Gras party.

Held on Fat Tuesday - the last day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday - the Canal District event linked neighborhood bars and restaurants to showcase its role as an entertainment hub in the city.

As Wyck told kids watching from the sidewalk that what he was doing was real and dangerous, John Giangregorio looked on with beads around his neck.

"It's a Tuesday night in February and this place is packed," said Mr. Giangregorio, president of the Canal District Alliance and a co-chairman of the event.

Inside Smokestack, the Slippery Sneakers Zydeco Band started playing around 6 p.m., after a brief ceremony kicking off the night. Mayor Joseph Petty and District 2 City Councilor Philip P. Palmieri gave brief remarks before heading off to the City Council meeting; Mr. Petty said the up-and-coming Canal District is a vital part of the city. Mr. Palmieri said there is a lot of enthusiasm created by events like the Carnaval de Canal. There were bands, buffets, DJs and drink specials at participating venues, which included The Center, The Hotel Vernon, The Lucky Dog and Three G's Sports Bar. The Magic Hat Brewing Co. sponsored a giveaway trip for four to the Burlington, Vt., Mardi Gras. Free shuttles ran from Worcester State University, Clark University, and the College of the Holy Cross.

It wouldn't be a Canal District event without Robert Largess and his Belgian draft horses, and the carriage he usually takes people for tours in featured music by Nat Needle.

"I'm having a wonderful time," said Suzan Dudula as Mr. Largess deftly directed his horses across Kelley Square. "I don't get out much."

Ms. Dudula, a city police dispatcher, horse trainer, and artist, wanted to get an up-close look at the horses, but said she also stopped by the Lucky Dog, and had a snack at the Center bar.

At one point, Mr. Largess invited Yaritza Roman, who works at the Mexicana Mini Market on Millbury Street, and her baby daughter, Mia Diaz, to hop on for a ride. Bundled in blankets and wearing a winter hat, Mia just sat and stared as Mr. Needle as he strummed and sang.

Mr. Largess said events like Carnaval de Canal show a vision that organizing businesses have developed for the district. He said he hopes the annual celebration continues to grow into an event similar to the Taste of Shrewsbury Street festival.

He said he would like to see the Carnaval expand its borders into the downtown area.

"You just do it," Mr. Largess said.



CUTLINE: Revelers, who identified themselves as, from left, Erick Godin, Donna Kuchrawy, Star, Phil Sthintor and The Captain, celebrate Fat Tuesday at Smokestack BBQ, one of several venues participating in the Mardi Gras event in the Canal District Tuesday night.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 13, 2013
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