By Sierra Stivala
Those familiar with New Orleans can testify that they may as well have stepped onto the cobblestones of Bourbon Street as they entered the Brower Student Center on Tuesday, March 31. The Alternative Break Club, known as ABC, transformed the area into the heart of everyone’s favorite city for its fifth annual Mardi Gras Masquerade.
A tapestry painted with New Orleans-inspired brick scenery illuminated in the night lined the far right wall. From the rhythm of smooth jazz to the savory taste of authentic Cajun food, ABC brought the French Quarter to life at the College.
“We have a quote at ABC: ‘New Orleans takes you by the heart and never lets go,’” said Jenn Pagliaro, a sophomore special education and history double major and ABC’s vice president of publicity. “It’s a city you can’t just visit once and think you’ve had enough.”
This seems to be a resounding sentiment among those who have volunteered their time and energy as part of ABC. As a result, the club organizes three yearly trips to the city, taking place in the winter, spring and summer.
This past winter’s trip alone attracted 90 students. The eager volunteers paid their own way through the trip with the help of proceeds from various fundraisers. This money was used to rebuild homes devastated by the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina. Still, their efforts to immerse themselves in the culture didn’t end on the flight home.
Funded by the Student Finance Board, ABC coordinated the event to emulate the city’s one-of-a-kind, eclectic soul.
“This is our way of bringing the New Orleans culture and spirit to New Jersey,” junior physics and secondary education major Erin O’Connell said.
Those in attendance enjoyed an array of authentic foods catered by Beck’s Cajun Café of Philadelphia. A striking combination of spices invaded the taste buds of those sampling everything from jambalaya to rice saturated in a creole tomato sauce. For many, this was their first time trying such sensations. The extensive buffet ended on a sweet note with bread pudding complemented by whiskey sauce. ABC hand-picked the Cajun selection to best represent the foods they found comfort in while away.
Nevertheless, New Orleans wouldn’t be properly replicated without a display of daiquiris which are so commonly found in bars and restaurants along Bourbon Street. Virgin margarita, piña colada and strawberry daiquiri machines were among the round tables draped in green, yellow and purple. Students strolled around the event, mingling with one another and sporting the iconic Mardi Gras beads and masks placed at each seat.
Chatter of new and old memories alike coincided with the beat of an authentic swing band. ABC sought out musicians that would properly pay homage to the birthplace of jazz. The Bon Temps soulfully played as the College’s swing club danced their feet off, getting other students and even the band members to join along.
“Between the beat of the music and the energy behind it, I couldn’t help but sing along,” sophomore special education and psychology major Christine Beverin said.
The club decided to capture the inescapably contagious spirit through a photo booth filled with props regularly seen throughout the streets of New Orleans. Students posed with friends wearing oversized glasses and outrageous boas. Others held up inflatable saxophones and guitars at the sight of the flash. From feathery masks to traditional beads, the props perfectly conveyed the essence of Mardi Gras.
Strips of the photos were dispersed to those who posed as memorabilia of a fun-filled night. And for those who participated in ABC’s trips, it was a long-lasting reminder of the city that clearly touched all of their hearts.