Over the last 28 years, Mardi Gras for Homeless Children has raised more than $1.7 million for local agencies that care for homeless children. Last year’s event raised $140,000 but Gordy Snyder, chairman of the event and president of Commonwealth Hotel Collection, says that the plan is to raise even more this year with a goal of $150,000.

We spoke with Snyder about why the annual event is important to the community and what attendees can look forward to.

What is Mardi Gras for Homeless Children?

The event is the 28th annual Mardi Gras for Homeless Children presented by Mercedes-Benz of Fort Mitchell [and the Wyler Family Foundation]. It’s produced by the Northern Kentucky Restaurant Association and the date is Tuesday, March 5, from 6:30-10 p.m. Regular admission is $70 and VIP admission, which includes early entry at 5:30 p.m., is $90. It’s being held at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center here in Covington. You can get tickets right now at Mercedes-Benz of Fort Mitchell, Hofbrauhaus, any of the benefiting agencies [or] on our website at mardigras2019.org.

All the proceeds benefit homeless children agencies, one in Ohio and two here in Northern Kentucky. The one in Ohio is Bethany House Services in Cincinnati. The two in Kentucky are Brighton Center’s Homeward Bound in Covington and Welcome House of Northern Kentucky, also in Covington.

What happens during the event?

The event is really a culinary event—it’s an all-inclusive culinary tasting of food and beverages from local restaurants, both in Ohio and Northern Kentucky, as well as various beverages including adult beverages like craft beers and wines and so on. We also feature live entertainment with New Orleans jazz-type entertainment, with Robin Lacy and DeZydeco. We also have a Mardi Gras parade with stilt walkers, clowns, it’s led by the Beechwood High School marching band and we feature a royal court. Scott Sloan of WLW is the Mardi Gras king, Sheila Gray from Local 12 is the Mardi Gras queen, our grand marshal is Giovani Bernard, the Bengals running back, and also we have emcees for the evening of Bob Herzog with Local 12 and Josh Martinez of Kiss 107. The event features over 50 restaurants and purveyors.

How did the event first get started?

The reason this event was started 28 years ago is there was a tragic incident that occurred in Cincinnati. There were [four] homeless children that were locked in an abandoned garage by their father who left them alone. They began to play with matches and actually the garage caught on fire and all [four] perished because they couldn’t get out of the garage. They were locked in.

An article that said that at the time there were over 7,000 homeless children in Cincinnati living in abandoned cars, houses, garages and so on. The Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky communities were just shocked that this could be happening in our community.

The Northern Kentucky Restaurant Association and the Cincinnati Restaurant Association joined forces to create the Mardi Gras for Homeless Children and the purpose of that Mardi Gras was to raise money for the homeless children agencies and that money is earmarked to go toward their food budget for an entire year.

All three agencies serve or feed over 13,000 homeless children annually. It’s a pretty big number of homeless people.

Why is Mardi Gras for Homeless Children still important?

I’ve been involved since the very beginning—actually I was the first Mardi Gras chair and somehow I keep getting talked into it. We’ve gone and visited these three agencies and they do wonderful work. You go there and you see these homeless children and these agencies it really does touch your heart and makes all this hard work worthwhile. 

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