It could have been mistaken for the New Orleans French Quarter with Bloody Marys flowing, beads flying, and games going. But it was actually the Senior Center in Secaucus on Feb. 6, when local residents above the age of 55 enjoyed a day of celebration. While the drinks were non-alcoholic, residents were treated to Louisiana-style food and King’s Cake, and were entertained with games led by Huber Street Elementary School students.
Masks, beads, and doubloons
Mardi Gras is a French Catholic tradition that dates back centuries, involving Carnival celebrations leading up to the Lenten period. Mardi Gras translates to Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday when individuals traditionally feast before fasting.
To partake in the festive custom, the Senior Center was decorated with purple, green, and yellow masks. Over 70 seniors attended the gathering, including a $1 lunch. Lunch included King’s Cake, which had sugary, white icing and purple, yellow, and green sprinkles as well as a small baby figurine placed inside. Seniors also received colorful beads, doubloons, trinkets, food, and drink.
“We are free birds here.” – Papan Panjabi
“This is our first time,” said Patricia Cruz, who is originally from Georgia. She and her husband Enrique Cruz, who is originally from Puerto Rico, both moved to Secaucus in 2006 to be closer to family.
“I enjoyed it,” added Patricia.
Thirty students from Huber Street who are in the Student Government Organization also joined in the celebration. The activities for the seniors included playing UNO, other card games, checkers, and Bingo with the students.
“We had a great time,” said Erlinda Ducusin. “All the people, the games…”
Ducusin won a box of candy during the game play. She was seated next to her friend Laura Alarcon who won $10.
“We love a lot of senior citizen programs,” said Alarcon. She also said she loves New Orleans, which she visited prior to Hurricane Katrina.
While the Reporter wasn’t expecting to be flashed, one senior lifted his sweater to reveal a button-down shirt underneath, when describing how he got his beads.
“I’m a frequent flyer here,” said Al O’Krinsky. “It was nice…the kids were great!”
His granddaughter, Jesse Gohde, who is in sixth grade was also in attendance.
Another resident Papan Panjabi, who has two granddaughters in Clarendon, will soon be leaving for India but not before he goes to the Valentine’s Day senior celebration on the 14th.
“We are free birds here,” said Panjabi. He leaves with his wife for Mumbai for three months and returns in June for another granddaughter’s graduation.
The idea for the event originated from a trio team of organizers at the Senior Center that include Senior and Social Services Director Lisa Snedeker and colleagues Judy Kennelly and Florence Tarantino. Kennelly came up with the theme, Tarantino came up with offering a dollar lunch, and Snedeker organized the games.
“It was wonderful,” said Snedeker.
“We had a blast,” added Kennelly.
Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli was also in attendance and helped hand out sweaters to the seniors, which were donated to the town by Fashion Delivers.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.