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Hundreds celebrate Mardi Gras in Oyster Bay

Horse and buggy rides around the Planting Fields

Horse and buggy rides around the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay were a crowd favorite at the Mardi Gras gala. (Feb. 20, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

Brightly-colored beads adorned the necks of hundreds of children and their families as they filed in and out of a special family-friendly Mardi Gras celebration at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay.

On a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon, families enjoyed live performances by a magician and juggler, horse and buggy rides, carnival games and more at the annual Mardi Gras gala held by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Vincent Simeone, director of the arboretum, where the event has been held for six or seven years, said the popular celebration gets the kids out of the house during the dead of winter and introduces families to the arboretum.

"It really kicks off our parks season," he said.

Owen Hall, of Glen Cove, came to the event with his son, father, sister and two nieces. He said the kids enjoyed the horse and buggy ride and were excited to be outside again. He said he was also happy the event was completely free.

"It makes it accessible to everyone," he said.

This year, Fat Tuesday, the last night of Mardi Gras, falls on March 8. In New Orleans, Mardi Gras celebrations begin on Jan. 6 and last until Fat Tuesday, the night before the first day of Lent. Historically, Fat Tuesday marked the last feast of fatty foods before they were given up for Lent.

And to the kids, it didn't matter what they were celebrating.

Joshua Palter, of Sea Cliff, said he wasn't quite sure what Mardi Gras was a celebration of or where it was celebrated, but he was happy to be at the arboretum.

"I think it's a very good vacation activity," said the 10-year-old. "And I recommend it."

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