The three-day event kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday, and Bill "The Sauce Boss" Wharton and the Ingredients take the main stage soon after that. Wharton plays the blues while cooking up gumbo for his audience, combining the two things that make Mardi Gras great -- music and food. At 8 p.m. that night, anyone with a little chutzpah can join the Masquerade March & Costume Contest. Participants saunter down Hollywood Boulevard, eventually reaching the main stage at 9 p.m., where they will compete for cash prizes: $500 for best costume, $150 for most creative, $125 for most bizarre, $125 for sexiest, and $100 for tackiest. The big Mardi Gras Parade takes place Saturday at 6 p.m., when more than 2000 costumed revelers on dozens of floats descend on the parade-watching masses, lobbing beads and doubloons.
Parades are all well and good, but the Sauce Boss definitely has the right idea: It's all about the food and music. The tuneful lineup this year includes the Charmaine Neville Band, starring the heir to the legacy of the Neville Brothers; New Orleans Juice, a psychedelic mix of funk, blues, second-line, and jazz; and the Zydeco Hellraisers, whose frontman, Dwayne Dopsie, has been called the hottest accordionist in America. All told, more than 30 bands will be performing throughout the weekend. As for the food, be sure to try the mudbugs (that's N'Awlins talk for crawfish) when Chef Joe Cahn, founder of the New Orleans School of Cooking, gives a demonstration at 3 p.m. Saturday. With the parades, the bands, the food, and the ready availability of Hurricanes (the unofficial king cocktail of Mardi Gras), Hollywood's production is a fair approximation of the original.