In 2012, the Carnegie Visual Arts Center presented Decatur’s first Mardi Gras-style celebration with the “Carnegie Carnival.” Charter members created a season that spans from Carnival Petition to the King and Queen to open the royal season to Twelfth Night in January to candidate events and culminates with the Carnegie Carnival parades, always held on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday.
What started 12 years ago as a way to raise funds for the arts has transformed into Carnegie Carnival, a culturally and economically significant event for the city, attracting thousands of visitors to downtown Decatur.
“This is an economically driven fundraiser. Everyone benefits from it. The downtown businesses benefit from it, several nonprofits benefit from it, we benefit from it, and the city benefits from it because we are a tourism draw,” said Kim Mitchell, director of the Carnegie Visual Arts Center, which organizes Carnegie Carnival.
Carnegie Carnival has a packed schedule for the event on Saturday with a Children’s Parade at 12:30 pm, Prince & Princess Coronation at the Princess Theatre at 2 pm, a Dog Parade at 2:30, bluegrass bands will be playing at the Brick from 11 am to close, children’s games and an art station will be at the Farmer’s Market, food trucks, half-marathon, and 5K races, and a free showing of The Princess and the Frog at 3 pm.
“It is a full day of family fun with lots of activities. We are doing things to keep people downtown. There are activities for everyone to do. You can have lunch downtown, watch a movie, listen to music, and watch the parades,” Mitchell said.
Beyond the music and parades, the heart of Carnegie Carnival lies in exposing the community to the arts.
You will see people of all ages from all walks of life out enjoying the season of Carnival together as they support the King and Queen, Prince and Princess, and dog candidates. Art can build a bridge across barriers and bring the community together in a unique way. Through the events held, Carnival has raised nearly 1 million dollars. Events like Spirit Nights at local restaurants, a Skeet Shoot, a Pickle Ball Tournament, Pool, Bowling, and Cornhole Tournaments, a Dog Fashion Show, Crime Tour, Gospel Brunch, and Silent Auctions are just a sampling of the full schedule of events by people coming together to raise money for the arts.
Proceeds from Carnegie Carnival help the Carnegie Visual Arts Center to do outreach in the schools and community, including the art installations at the Huntsville International Airport and Somerville Public Library, workshops, Creative Camps for children, and to keep admission in the visual arts center free.
Along with the Carnegie, a portion of the funds raised by the prince, princess, and canine candidates benefit the nonprofit organizations CASA of North Alabama and an animal shelter selected each year through an application process.
CASA provides children of the juvenile court system with an advocate in Morgan and Limestone counties. Once appointed to a child, the volunteers talk to teachers, doctors, and therapists to gather a picture of the child’s life and write recommendations for services and placements. Last year, 70 volunteers provided service to 429 children. The Prince and Princess candidates, seniors from area high schools, help spread the mission of CASA to the community as they hold their events and speak in their schools.
The local animal shelters partnered with the Carnegie have used the money raised to help them upgrade their facilities to service more animals and provide spay and neuter assistance with local veterinarians. The dogs running for Sir Bow Wow and Lady Barks a Lot are very creative with their events and have held a Pet Fashion Show featuring more than 30 dogs walking the runway with their owners. The Dog Parade and Costume Contest held on the day of Carnival is always well attended, and 100 percent of the proceeds from this event benefit the selected animal shelter.
There is something for everyone at the Carnegie Carnival. Get involved! Be a part of the Carnegie Visual Arts Center and Carnegie Carnival.