Mardi Gras at WASCO

A sea of purple, green and gold waved through the WASCO Inc. building Tuesday morning as clients and staff members celebrated Fat Tuesday with WASCO’s third annual Mardi Gras Parade.

The parade featured 12 different floats handmade by the different divisions and groups of the nonprofit organization that provides employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.

The event, one of several throughout the year, is held not only to bring the excitement of New Orleans to Marietta, but to make the community aware of the organization in honor of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

“It went completely fabulously,” said Nancy Harris, the business development manager for WASCO who coordinated the event with staff. “Students from Ewing School and adults from WASCO came together in a great fashion and worked really hard to bring awareness to this important month.”

Four floats were given awards from the judges. Funniest Float went to WASCO’s senior room group, who adorned costumes from the popular A&E show “Duck Dynasty”; Most Original went to the float made by the moose room group, who made a scaled model of Bourbon Street; Best of Show went to the Thermo group, with an elaborate float featuring tons of colorful rubber ducks; and the Best of Mardi Gras 2014 went to the fitness group for its depiction of The Octopus’ Garden by The Beatles in celebration of New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Marsha Hill, 56, of Belpre, was part of the Thermo group, which works with fellow clients to package, sort and assemble products for Thermo Fisher, a lab equipment company in Marietta.

“We worked really hard, and the float was all of our ideas,” she said. “We really like the ducks, and that’s why they call our group the duck dynasty.”

One float, built by the Boys and Girls Club, featured a Pork BBQ, complete with a life-sized pig, and the production group at WASCO built a float that featured a casino made of paper mache and colorfully painted cardboard.

“We’re trying to enhance everyone we serve’s lives, and these things are all about them,” Harris said. “It’s a family-knit environment, and we all had a lot of fun.”

Local government officials, business and media professionals judged the event and chose the award for best T-shirt design.

The Thermo group took home the award for best T-shirt, which featured bright yellow shirts and hats with colorful paintings of ducks with Mardi Gras colors.

WASCO client and Marietta resident John Belleville, 30, did not participate in building a float, but was just along to enjoy the parade and festivities.

“I could not pick my favorite float, I really liked all of them,” he said.

Along with the floats was a performance by a group of belly dancers from the Mama Lotus Dance Studio in Vienna.

“Mardi Gras is a really fun holiday, and the king cake was really good,” said Joey Finnette, 50, a client of WASCO. “And I liked the Thermo float because they won, but I really liked all of them.”

WASCO works under the umbrella of the Washington County Board of Developmental Disabilities to provide vocational and recreational opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. Day programs are available for clients to socialize, exercise and make products for local businesses, among other employment opportunities.

“Employment is a big push right now,” said Joe Faires, WASCO’s work services manager.

Clients of WASCO and students of Ewing School, which serves pre-school and school-aged children, also enjoyed an afternoon dance and a BBQ lunch, topped off with a king cake, a popular food staple of Mardi Gras.