Slice the king cake, and throw out some beads!
March 4 is Fat Tuesday -- more commonly known by its French name, Mardi Gras. It's the day for one last fling before fasting for the Lenten season begins the following day, Ash Wednesday.
While Chattanooga may not offer the carnival atmosphere of New Orleans, there are three Mardi Gras theme parties coming up that offer the same food and fun. An added perk is that they benefit worthy nonprofits, so guests will feel a little less guilty when letting the good times roll.
■ Saturday, March 1: Loose Cannon Studio, 1800 Rossville Ave., will be decked out in all the trappings of carnival -- beads, masks, even a float -- for a Mardi Gras party to benefit Chambliss Center for Children.
The $70 ticket includes New Orleans-themed food catered by Events With Taste, jazz music to start the night and music by SoundForce to close it out. The fun lasts from 7 to 11 p.m. Reservations: 423-468-1130.
■ Monday, March 3: The city's most established -- and perhaps most glamorous -- Mardi Gras celebration is the annual masked ball thrown by the Chattanooga Bach Choir at the Walden Club. It's actually two parties in one. There's the warm-up at the Sheraton Read House starting at 6 p.m. Then revelers leave the Read House at 7 p.m. for a strut down Chestnut Street for the remainder of the gala at the Walden Club, led by the River City Red Hots band.
A theme is chosen every year for this masked ball, and this year it is "Bacchanalia," a nod to uninhibited revelry. After a four-course dinner by chef Jeff Walker, the variety of entertainment includes crowning a Mardi Gras king and queen, Mardi Gras mask contest, dancing to the music of Booker T. Scruggs, auction, door prizes and entertainment by choir members and singer Andrew Chauncey.
Tickets are $100. The reservation deadline has passed, but anyone interested in attending can check space availability by calling 423-902-9191 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
■ Tuesday, March 4: Southern legend holds that whoever finds the baby charm hidden in a king cake either provides the next king cake or hosts the next Mardi Gras party. But at the Fat Cat Tuesday party, whoever finds a "fat cat" inside his slice of king cake will go home with a prize.
The Pet Placement Center is hosting this Mardi Grass party from 6 to 8 p.m. in Chat'o Brasserie, 200 Manufacturers Road. The $30 ticket includes New Orleans-themed hors d'oeuvres and specialty cocktails. Reservations: 423-877-0738.