Chester Gras Festivities Approach

By Lori Wysong
Elm Staff Writer

Washington College students are welcome to grab their krewe and come celebrate Mardi Gras in Chestertown. Now in its fifth year, Chester Gras will be raising money for the Kent County Backpack Program from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10.

The event is free to all, but proceeds from the sale of gumbo and other refreshments will go straight to the Backpack Program, which provides nutritious food on weekends to Kent County schoolchildren who qualify for free or reduced meals on weekdays.

According to Susan Basener, Backpack coordinator and chair of the Community Food Pantry Board, the event began when Ralph Dowling, president of The People’s Bank in Chestertown, was impressed by backpack volunteers and became Chester Gras’s central organizer.

Since then, she said, The People’s Bank employees have been “very generous in donating not only funds but time and effort.”

Basener shared the story of another generous individual from Rock Hall, who donated all the proceeds from his art show to the Backpack Organization.

The Backpack Program’s main sources of funding come from donations like these from churches and individuals, as well as the profits from Chester Gras.

“No one likes to hear that children don’t have enough food,” Basener said.

In addition to supporting this cause, Basener said the secondary purpose of Chester Gras is to host “a family-friendly, wintertime, fun event for the county.”

This year’s celebration will include live music, a 50/50 raffle, a photo booth, and dancing and costume competitions. Because of the chilly weather, much of the event will be held under a heated tent. A Mardi Gras parade will come down High Street at 1p.m.

“Everyone loves it when college students participate—it adds so much life and fun,” Basener said.

For WC students who are interested, the Backpack Program can also use volunteers for event setup and cleanup.

Many WC students are already contributing their time and effort to the Backpack Program.

The campus organization Caring for Kids has been packing bags of food for children at Garnett Elementary School for years.

Sophomore Arianna Hall is a student volunteer and the College liaison for Chester Gras.  Along with other organizers of the event, she is  “working towards getting student participation by implementing different events and activities that may be of interest to the student body,” she said.

Students who have any questions about the event, or who are interested in volunteering should contact Susan Basener at

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