Deadwood's Mardi Gras Weekend returns Friday and Saturday with all of the usual highlights, plus one new event for Cajun food lovers.

Mardi Gras will begin Friday with a Cajun Feast at eight different locations, with Deadwood Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director Amanda Kille touting the progressive menu.

"As you move from one location to another, you'll find soup and appetizers, entrees, and finally end with a dessert," Kille said.

Appetizers are found at the Mineral Palace, serving frog legs and skewered shrimp, and the Nugget Saloon, featuring shrimp and Andouille sausage red bean and rice Soup. Saloon No. 10 and Buffalo Bodega, meanwhile, will serve the soup, with etouffee (thick spicy shellfish stew served over white rice) at the former and jambalaya at the latter.

Main courses will include a sausage and chicken gumbo with red beans at the Gold Dust, pheasant etouffee at the Tin Lizzie, and blackened catfish with fried okra topped with corn and crawfish etouffee at the Deadwood Mountain Grand.

The feast will end at the Silverado-Franklin, serving bananas foster bread pudding.

"We recognize that people make a special point to get up to Deadwood early, and the Cajun cookoff is already popular, so we thought we'd give people more of what they want for Friday night," Kille said.

Those who finish can then attend the Silverado-Franklin's annual masquerade party, complete with the coronation of the king and queen of Mardi Gras and live music by Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble, an authentic New Orleans zydeco band.

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Saturday, meanwhile, will feature all of the usual highlights, with a Cajun Cookoff in the afternoon with free tasting. Judges will pick their favorites, but attendees can vote by putting a dollar into the donation boxes. All of the money will be donated to the Northern Hills Recreation Association's Youth Recreation Program. The day will culminate with the Mardi Gras parade.

"The parade seems to get bigger and bigger, with more floats every year," Kille said. "And people will be throwing different toys off the floats, from stuffed animals to fancier beads than usual to king cake babies, for a little extra luck."

Kille said that it was an excellent way to get out of the house and take part in a big party.

"Several thousand people come, and you can really see them by the time the parade comes," Kille said. "It gives people an excuse to get outside in the winter."

For more information, visit deadwoodmardigras.com. To book hotel reservations, visit deadwood.com.

Contact Max B. O'Connell at 394-8427 or max.oconnell@rapidcityjournal.com

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