This story is a companion piece to the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast episode titled 'More than a Mardi Pardi.' Click here to listen to the episode or subscribe for free wherever you get your podcasts.
ST. LOUIS - It’s no surprise Soulard is the party capital of St. Louis for Mardi Gras.
Afterall, Soulard translates to ‘drunkard’ in French.
But the name for the neighborhood south of downtown came long before the beads, beers and revelers partied in the streets. And it’s no coincidence the celebration in St. Louis is only outdone by Bourbon Street.
“You’ve gotta remember the same people settled New Orleans that settled St. Louis,” explained Tom Gullickson, the owner-partner at 1860 Saloon, Game Room, & Hardshell Café in Soulard. He’s also the Soulard Business Association president.
Back in 1764, Pierre Laclede and August Chouteau traveled up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to establish a trading post in St. Louis.
Thirty years later, a refugee from the French Revolution moved to some farmland south of the city where many other French people wound up settling down and building up.
His name: Antoine Soulard.
“So, you see a lot of French architecture, the French Mansard roofs, the French balconies, and it’s all because of our direct connection,” Gullickson explained.
Hundreds of years later, Soulard still has that French flare. But now, with a little more laissez les bons temps rouler. Translation: Let the good times roll.
St. Louis legend has it that Mardi Gras in Soulard started in 1979 with a group of drunk pals who walked down the streets of Soulard tossing beads to make their own fun before Lent began.
Now, decades later, some 10 million strands of beads will fly into the crowd of partiers.
“I’ve seen its ups and downs. I’ve seen the rain. I’ve seen the snow. If the sun is shining, people will come out no matter what,” Gullickson said. He’s been part of Soulard’s Mardi Gras celebration for 35 of its 41 years.
About 400,000 people are expected to attend this year’s party.
From the Cajun cookoff to the Bacchanalian Ball. The Taste of Soulard and the Purina Pet Parade – which is the biggest pet parade on the planet, by the way. And the big shebang of them all: The Bud Light Grand Parade.
Soulard has put itself on the Mardi Gras map.
“The idea of Mardi Gras is to celebrate, get it all out before Ash Wednesday and you have to give it up for 40 days. So, some people go a little extreme, but some people just enjoy it and just have fun,” Gullickson said.
And his message to anyone who says, “I used to go to Mardi Gras years ago, but now it’s just a giant, messy party”?
“Oh, then they don’t come down here recently or don’t come down here enough.”
About Abby Eats St. Louis
Abby Llorico tells the story of St. Louis based on what’s on the table. From the hunger for local ingredients, to the booming brunch scene and the craving for creative cocktails, Abby dives into the nitty-gritty of how St. Louis grew to become the foodie town that it is.
Abby Eats St. Louis is available for free on all podcast apps. Take a listen to our latest episodes in the audio player above. We’ve also included links to some of the most popular podcast platforms below.
Make sure to subscribe to get the latest episode as soon as it drops.
Take a listen and let us know what you think! Have a topic idea or just want to send us your thoughts or comments? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And make sure to follow the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast on Instagram for more photos, videos and food inspiration.
More from Abby Eats St. Louis
- The Old Arena lives on at this hockey-themed St. Louis brewery
- How to save your favorite restaurant from neighbors who did it in the Central West End
- Lion’s Choice: Led with pride by a guy who gave up his dream retirement life
- From teen waitress to James Beard semifinalist | How Zoe Robinson inspires the STL food scene
- How SweeTARTS got their start by a father and his kids in St. Louis
- You'll soon be able to sip on Missouri Bourbon Whiskey
- From priesthood to peddling hot sauce: Meet the man behind Hot Charlie's
- Red Hot Riplets: 'The best hot chip in the world'
- Spirits of St. Louis: Craft cocktail business bubbling up in the Lou
- Famous-Barr's French onion soup is being served again in St. Louis
- Brunch. So. Hard. How the meal is turning Sunday morning into the new Friday night
- How the farm-to-table locavore movement is changing St. Louis food culture