On February 14, 1977, Seattle's first Fat Tuesday, a Mardi Gras festival, opens in Pioneer Square. Although no public events are planned for that Monday, merchants busy themselves decorating their premises with bunting and balloons and One Reel Vaudeville erects its vast red-and-white tent. Despite the lack of planned events, festival goers begin to arrive and, by lunchtime, costumed revelers and street performers crowd the streets.
Tonic for the February Doldrums
Celebrating Mardi Gras (literally the "Fat Tuesday" preceding Ash Wednesday and Lent) had never been a tradition in mostly Protestant Seattle, with the exception of early African American festivals in connection with Seafair. Central Tavern co-owner Bobby Foster (1946-1979) conceived the event as a cure for the traditional post-holiday downturn in business. Planning for it was aided by other Pioneer Square taverns and businesses.
The celebration went well during the first days and drew unexpected crowds that indulged in the music and frivolity. However, later, police complained that by Saturday evening, February 19, they were unable to enforce the law and drunkenness was out of hand as thousands of people were drawn outside by the summer-like weather. Officers complained of having beer bottles thrown at them.