Canvassed in a sea of green, yellow and purple, the New Haven Free Public Library resembled New Orleans on Tuesday evening as partygoers enjoyed the largest Mardis Gras party in the area.
With Comcast sponsoring the event, more than 300 guests attended the three-hour celebration that included live music, photo booths, food, drinks and a virtual reality simulator. Organizers handed out festive masks, beads and other party favors to embody the holiday also known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday.
The party celebrated the library as organizers expected to raise more than $50,000, said Tim Yergeau, the library’s director of advancement.
Organizers hosted the annual party through a small dinner about 10 years ago, but the library has played host in recent years to enhance the experience. Yergeau said Comcast has sponsored the event twice, bringing the celebration to new heights.
After attending, it’s obvious he was right.
With food and drinks booths covering the library wall-to-wall, visitors also enjoyed an auction with more than 30 items. Bookshelves were lined with Mardi Gras tassels and ornaments, which we have to assume helped visitors fight the urge to access the library’s collection of more than 40,000 books.
The prizes included some of the best New Haven and Connecticut has to offer. Winners were handed ticket packages to attend the Connecticut Open, the Traveler’s Championship, Jersey Boys, International Festival of Arts & Ideas events and tours of local museums.
If the pageantry and prizes weren’t enough, a virtual reality center transported users to New Haven’s skyline through Google Earth. Also on tap was the Timmy Maia Experience, a four-member band playing the top 40 hits, jazz, blues, and several requests from the audience.
Partygoers posed in front of a gold photo booth as a professional photographers captured their carnival attire.
Food was prepared by many Elm City favorites including 116 Crown, Crepes Choupette, Claire’s Corner Copia, Miya’s Sushi, Heirloom and Soul De Cuba, among others.
Planning and preparing the event was a community effort with assistance from several city departments, library staff, Comcast officials, the Defining Photo, Andrew Rubenoff Design, Elm City Dance Collective and many others.
The library, established in 1887, has more than 42,000 members and welcomes more than 350,000 visitors per year. An expansion project renovated the facility in 1990, and the library then celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2012.
We were on site last year when local leaders collaborated on the library’s latest renovation project to build a 4,600-square-foot innovation center on the first floor.
With the help from Margaret Sullivan, of Margaret Sullivan Studio, volunteers discussed ways to improve the library through think tanks, technology-based rooms, incubator spaces and a café. These spaces will link creators with MakeHaven and The Grove to improve their work.