- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The 12th annual United Way of Calvert County Mardi Gras boasted a variety of games, music and colorful costumes on Saturday.
The event, themed “On the Riverboat,” featured transformation of the Solomons Holiday Inn Conference Center & Marina, with activities taking place on the lower, upper and outer “decks,” and roaming performers, including an illusionist and show girls. Partygoer options included casino games, a live auction and silent auction, an antique photo booth and having their fortunes told, among others.
Maertens Fine Jewelry & Gifts also held its annual Razzle Dazzle Raffle to raise funds for the United Way, raffling off more than $8,000 worth of items.
All money raised at the event will go toward UWCC’s programs and about 30 local partner organizations who benefit from the United Way.
“That money is going to go toward education, income and health,” UWCC President and CEO Kelly Chambers said. “That money will stay right here in Calvert County, rest assured.”
The largest individual fundraisers, however, are the annual Mardi Gras king, queen and court. On Saturday, previous king and queen John McGuffin and Amber Yurko crowned this year’s winners, Saquane Johnson of Owings and Keely Tolley of Huntingtown, who earned the most dollar votes in this year’s campaign. Mike Hart, Jason Scaggs, Anissa Swanzy and Patt Parker made up the rest of the court.
Over the past decade, Mardi Gras has raised more than $1 million for charity organizations. This year, Chambers said the court managed to raise $84,000, with Tolley bringing in about $35,000 alone.
Tolley attributes her win to the number of fundraisers she held over the past several months, and to her “co-queen,” Cinnamon, a 6-year-old Chihuahua who received her own robe and tiara.
“Cinnamon is a family friend that heard I was running for queen and she wanted to be queen, too,” Tolley said. “She just loves her outfits.”
The local Realtor’s many fundraisers included a fashion show, holiday open house, cornhole tournament, wine tasting and “flamingo flocking” in which people donated to either not have their front yards flocked with lawn flamingos or to send the flamingos to someone else’s yard.
Tolley also raised money through the more traditional fundraising tactic of selling baked goods.
“I baked numerous cookies for Christmas, but people loved them so much I kept doing them,” she said. “I raised a lot of money by baking.”
Tolley said she considers the crown “a reward for all my hard work” and said she learned through her campaign that “you have to ask. You have to ask for donations, you have to ask for help.”
She set her mind to running and winning in order to help people who benefit from United Way services.
“I have a spiritual gift for helping people, and this was a wonderful way to help multiple families in our community through United Way,” she said.
Johnson, owner of S.J. Johnson Heating & Air, called his win “pretty exciting — just an opportunity to give back to the community.”
Johnson’s fundraisers included a poker tournament, fish fry and “mostly just beating on doors” asking for donations.
“It helps our community, the kids, some of the less fortunate people,” he said of the Mardi Gras event’s importance.
Much of the entertainment was provided by Fantasy World Entertainment of Prince Frederick, which served as a major sponsor of the event. Co-owners Brooks and Amelia Grady spent the evening enjoying the different activities featured.
“We donated a lot of the things here,” Brooks Grady said. “We’re just glad to help out the community and give back, and to help out the United Way.”
Premier sponsors included Dominion, the Holiday Inn and Isaac’s Restaurant. Dozens of other local companies and organizations also served as sponsors.