A little bit of the Big Easy will come to Oxford in the form of the Mardi Gras Ball at 8 p.m. Tuesday at The Lyric Oxford.
This event will be the first of its kind and is open to the community. OUTGrads, OutOxford and OUTlaw, organizations intended to promote equality and create a safe and comfortable climate for allies or openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of the community, are sponsoring the ball.
Blake Summers, co-founder of OutOxford, is especially proud of the community support the ball has received.
“The amount of opportunity and support from local business, Oxford Police Department and individuals speaking with me about past events is humbling. I came into working with the LGBTQ+ field unexpectedly, and I never expected it to be rewarding,” he said. “I see small victories when I see new attendees becoming progressively more outgoing. We are trying to promote self-acceptance and re-educate unhealthy attitudes towards our community, internally and externally.”
Summers said that the ball was open to everyone.
“Mardi Gras personifies exuberance, diversity and communal enjoyment. These themes encompass everything we hope to bring to Oxford,” he said. “I’m proud of Oxford’s strong ally base, and I hope they continue to support us. We hope that allies will join us in a night in the sake of bonding and camaraderie between diverse demographics. It is a joy to see our community flourish and now unify for an event.”
President of OUTGrads Sarah Heying said the party will be a safe space for the entire community.
“This seemed like a great opportunity to work with some other important LGBTQ groups in the area to host an event for our community at-large,” she said. “It’s an affirming, open-minded party that everyone can enjoy. We hope to make this an annual event, so we’re excited for this kickoff.”
OUTGrads and OutOxford reached out to OUTlaw to combine efforts in the early planning stages of the event. By unifying, the groups said they hoped to be able to reach a wider audience and bring in more members of the LOU community.
Bri Warner, vice president of OUTlaw, the law school division of these organizations, said the group is sponsoring the event because it wants the law school to be an active participant in inclusive community-wide events such as the Mardi Gras Ball.
“Events like this are vital to ensuring that LGBTQ people at the university and in Oxford have an opportunity to have fun in an inclusive, safe environment,” she said. “Oxford is home to so many wonderful and diverse people, and this Mardi Gras Ball will celebrate the very best Oxford has to offer.”
A DJ will be at the ball, and there will be drag shows as well as Mardi Gras-inspired décor and food. Event-goers are asked to wear cocktail or formal attire.
Ole Miss student Cole Durrett said he is planning to attend the ball because of its uniqueness in Oxford as a Mardi Gras-themed event.
“I think it might be fun because Mardi Gras doesn’t get a lot of attention here in Mississippi compared to other places,” he said. “It’s important that Oxford has events like this to keep excitement up during the brutal cold months, when football games are no longer a steady source of hype.”
Occasions like Mardi Gras Ball, which the organizations hope will become an annual event, promote a healthy community environment and make other future inclusivity events possible, Cody Bradford, treasurer of OUTlaw, said. Bradford also encouraged community donations.
Money raised from the Mardi Gras Ball will be used to foster an inclusive environment in Oxford as well as to create future events.
“Come to have fun. Balls are opportunities for people to be creative, and I hope eventually people will be inspired to embrace their personal creativity,” Summers said. “A mask and beads is all you need. It’s a ball, honey.”