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Mardi Gras parades through Robert Gray

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Every year Robert Gray French-language students design and show off Mardi Gras floats

CONNECTION PHOTOS: HANNAH RANK - It takes Robert Gray Middle School's eighth-grade students about three weeks to design and implement their parade floats, which take on a variety of themes. Vibrant, handmade floats created by the eighth-grade French class paraded through the halls of Robert Gray Middle School for Mardi Gras last month — and they were met with great excitement and anticipation.

For most of the school's students, the parade meant grabbing as many lobbed pieces of candy and beaded necklaces as they could, as well as enjoying the musical accompaniment of the school's marching band. But for members of Shawna Wheeler's French class, the parade was a culmination of nearly a month of preparation.Anticipation fills the air as students begin to line the halls of Robert Gray Middle School on Feb. 28. They're awaiting the annual Mardi Gras parade, which includes candy tossing.

Wheeler says the students work on their floats, from conception to creation and finally in the parade, for three weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, which occurred this year on Feb. 28.

"They come up with their own theme and how that will be realized," Wheeler says. "The students enjoy the opportunity to let their creativity flow. They enjoy the parade itself as well, but that time passes quickly."

This year, the parade began at the entrance on the north side of the school, wound down the south stairs and then passed through the lower-level hall. The Robert Gray Marching Band led the parade with apropos, brass-heavy tunes.Eighth-grade students at Robert Gray Middle School dressed up in colorful costumes to accompany their floats. Their instructor says they like "to let their creativity flow."  Of course, it doesn't hurt that candy is usually involved.

According to Wheeler, nearly 50 eighth-grade students prepared the 11 floats, making it the largest parade she had seen at the school. The seventh-grade French class also participated in festivities by designing and decorating masks.

In addition to preparing floats, the students also learned about the history of the holiday and its celebrations around the world. Mardi Gras, which in French means "Fat Tuesday," traditionally commemorates the feasts before the seasonal fasting for Lent.

Wheeler jokes that for all the frenzy and stress of putting the parade together, her favorite part of the project is when it ends. Actually, though, she says she enjoys seeing how the students take to the task of putting the parade together.

"I love seeing how students' ideas come to fruition," Wheeler says. "Sometimes their plans work, sometimes they're trying to pull it together at the last minute. Regardless, they've learned something about collaboration and seeing a project through to the end."Remnants of voraciously consumed candy sprinkle the halls of Robert Gray after another exciting Mardi Gras parade rolled through.

Contact Connection Reporter Hannah Rank at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.