Williamsport Ready To Celebrate Mardi Gras

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WILLIAMSPORT -- It may be snowing outside but in Lycoming County it feels like New Orleans! Billtown's 17th annual Mardi Gras celebration kicks off Friday night.

Inside Franco's Lounge in Williamsport it is hard to miss the purple, green and gold decorations. The bar on Fourth Street is one of 12 locations participating in Williamsport's Mardi Gras celebration this weekend.

“We just want to promote the food of Mardi Gras, the music and a nice fun atmosphere,” said Franco's owner Maria Daniele.

Many of the participating bars and restaurants offer live music and food and drink specials all weekend.

“We have Cajun fried catfish, our homemade sausage, sweet potato hash, crab cake sandwiches with garlic bread,” Daniele added.

“Lots of beads for everybody, all the locations downtown will be giving away beads,” said Marc Schefsky, general manager of Genetti Hotel & Suites.

People can taste-test the entries in the gumbo competition and there is a parade down Fourth Street on Saturday.  Genetti Hotel and Suites will offer a $69 hotel rate because of the snow.

“(It’s for) anybody who wants to come in to town and stay in town, and not have to worry about driving home after being out partying all night and also with the snow coming,” Schefsky said.

If you live in or around Williamsport, you can hop on one of the free buses. To encourage people not to drink and drive, River Valley Transit is offering free bus rides between midnight and 2:30 a.m.

“They go to the outskirts of Williamsport, Montoursville, Newberry to make sure that people do get home safe,” said  Schefsky.

Each restaurant raises money for a charity of its choice.

"People just come in and put money in the jar and every penny that's collected will be turned back to the foundation,” said Rex Hilton of K's for Cancer.

Mardi Gras 2013 lasts all weekend in Williamsport.