Authentic Mardi Gras Celebration Raises Funds for REACH

Money raised at Tuesday night’s third annual Mardi Gras, hosted by Root + Barrel Kitchen, benefits REACH. From left, Director Andrea Anderson; Administrative Assistant and Victims’ Advocate Toni Montgomery; Shelter Manager and Victims’ Advocate Veronica Murphy; and Assistant Director Jennifer Turner-Lynn.

By Deena C. Bouknight, Contributing Writer

All proceeds of the March 5th Mardi Gras benefits REACH, whose mission is to eradicate domestic violence and sexual assault in Macon and Jackson counties.

A step inside Root + Barrel Kitchen Tuesday evening, March 5, had some patrons wondering if they were in New Orleans, La., or Franklin, N.C. With live jazz music by Tyler Kittle Quartet Band, colorful beads, carnival masks, balloons, and feather boas, the scene for a few hours was pure Mardi Gras. 

Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” historically means fattening up on rich foods before settling into the fasting season of Lent. At Root + Barrel, Mardi Gras attendees who reserved tables for the special event, were treated to a full buffet and they could purchase decorative cupcakes – in one of which was hidden a plastic “baby,” symbolizing luck and prosperity. Participants also had opportunities to sit for a tarot card reading, bid on an item in a silent auction, and don props and take photos against a glittering backdrop.

Aubrey and Matt Balmer were crowned Queen and King of Mardi Gras because they raised $6,500 for REACH. The total amount raised by all five couples was $13,000.

The main event was the champagne toast crowning of a Mardi Gras king and queen from the five nominated couples: Nick and Brittney Lofthouse, Pastor Bradley and Rebekah Lisk, Scott and Amy Manshack, Matt and Aubrey Balmer, and Greg and Erin Partington. Since nominated earlier in the year, the couples have been fundraising for REACH, which focuses on “eradicating domestic violence and sexual assault crimes in both Macon and Jackson counties, through preservation, intervention, and educational services,” according to its mission statement. 

The couple with the most funds raised, the Balmers, with $6,500, was named 2019 Mardi Gras king and queen. In total, the five couples raised $13,000. 

REACH’s Assistant Director Jennifer Turner-Lynn.

According to one of the Mardi Gras organizers, Andrea Anderson, director of REACH, this third annual event is the organization’s largest fundraiser. Last year, total funds netted was $18,000. For this year’s event, Anderson said, “We expect to net $20,000 when all the donations are tallied. We feel very good about the fundraising that occurred.”