Michael Bushnell

When Old Northeast Inc., Northeast’s local Community Development Corporation (CDC) closed their doors due to lack of funding in 2009, one of the organization’s most popular fundraising events, the annual Beans, Beads and Booze Mardi Gras party, needed a new place to call home.

Always up for a good party, it didn’t take long for the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to pick up the pieces and take over primary sponsorship of the event in 2010. Tight budgets and a short timeline for planning didn’t dampen the mood for the inaugural event held at the iconic Askew Inn on Fat Tuesday, February 10, 2010.  Bill and Andy Mortellaro, owners of the Askew Inn, hosted the party for four seasons as neighbors and local businesses pitched in with roasting pans full of red beans & rice, jambalaya and boiled mudbugs. Former Mayor Charles Wheeler was a regular attendee at the events and one year wandered out onto the Avenue to have a visit with some of the locals on the corner. Mayor Wheeler was always a man of the people.

With a need for bigger space, BB&B moved west to the Don Bosco Senior Center in the Columbus Park neighborhood, heralded with the headline “More space equals more fun”, published in the March 11, 2014 edition of The Northeast News. Over 150 people came out and celebrated the beginning of Lent in style, some from as far away as south Overland Park, Kansas.

The BB&B event was growing exponentially, outgrowing the Don Bosco space within three years. In 2018, the event was moved to the 18th & Vine District inside the huge foyer of the American Jazz Museum. Response was largely positive given the strong relationship between Jazz music and the celebration of Mardi Gras. As a testament to that relationship, over 300 guests attended the event, a new record for BB&B.

In 2023, BB&B moved yet again, this time to the iconic J. Rieger Distillery just down Chestnut Trafficway in the Electric Park neighborhood. The venue change did not disappoint as even Mayor Quinton Lucas was on hand for the celebration.

This year’s BB&B event is slated for Tuesday, February 13th, once again hosted by the J. Rieger Distilling Company. A full bar, live music and delicious Cajun cuisine will all be part of the festivities. For more information on this year’s party or to reserve tickets, visit the Northeast Chamber of Commerce web site at: https://nekcchamber.com/.