New Haven might not have New Orleans’ parades and parties, but Elm City residents still enjoyed this year’s Mardi Gras festivities — all while raising money for the New Haven Free Public Library at an annual party on Tuesday night at the Westville Mitchell Branch.

Many of the city’s most influential patrons of the arts were among the more than 200 attendees, including Mayor Toni Harp and City Librarian Martha Brogan. The event featured performances by the Hillhouse High School Marching Band and the brass band Funky Dawgz, and included a parade in which dancers threw beads to the crowd. The library also held a silent auction to raise funds for the Stetson Branch, which is relocating to the new Q House, a new community center set to open later this year.

“This event is a celebration of the spirit of generosity,” Brogan said in an opening speech. “It is in the form of shared resources, shared learning and safe places, and shared hope and opportunity for all.”

Elizabeth Nearing, the community engagement manager at Long Wharf Theatre, said she enjoyed seeing people from different areas of New Haven gather together for the celebration. She enjoyed seeing people “get dressed and come out” for the night to socialize with each other.

The members of the Hillhouse High School Band, who joined the festivities after this performance, said they enjoyed getting to taste different foods and listen to music at the event. Troyadriea Young, a student at Hillhouse, said watching Funky Dawgz was her favorite part of the evening.

To other attendees, the food vendors were the highlight of the night. Food was donated by Amoy’s, Barracuda, Claire’s Corner Copia, Edible Arrangements, Elm City Social, G Cafe and Heirloom, among other caterers.

“I love the food,” Harp told the News. “And I had wonderful ceviche and gumbo. It was delicious, and I also like the parade, or the one-line, where people walk around to the jazz and blues. What was missing was the white handkerchiefs, but I love the masks and the enjoyment.”

Other restaurants and local businesses provided gift certificates as part of a raffle in which attendees could pop balloons that contained prizes.

Despite the fun atmosphere, the event was first and foremost a fundraiser. Althea Norcott, who belongs to a committee working to raise funds for the Stetson Branch, said the group still needs to generate $700,000 as part of its campaign to fund new facilities. And at a time when many public institutions are under attack in politics, Harp told the News, it is important for New Haven to come together for the free use of information.

This was the first year the Mardi Gras fundraiser was held at the Mitchell Branch, which is located in Westville.

Carolyn Sacco |