Krewe for a cause

Michele Headen applauds during introductions Saturday at Krewe of Charleston's third annual Mardi Gras ball at the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium in downtown Charleston...

Tyrone Walker

They had the masks, the beads, the booze, the king and queen -- now all they need is a parade.

The Krewe of Charleston brought a little taste of Mardi Gras to the Holy City Saturday night with its Royal Bal Masque at the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium. Several hundred people spent the evening trying to establish a permanent home on the Atlantic Seaboard for that most festive of days.

"We are going to crown Charleston for Mardi Gras of the East Coast," said Donnie Bulliard, captain of the Krewe.

And hey, who doesn't love a parade?

Saturday marked the Krewe's third ball, and it gets a little bigger each year. But this is more than a party, it's a charity event that raises money for MUSC's children's hospital and Brennan Stands Alone, a nonprofit that helps military personnel and their families deal with the aftermath of devastating injuries.

Army Capt. Brian Brennan was crowned this year's Krewe king on Saturday night. Brennan, a native of New Jersey and Tango Company commander at The Citadel in 2006, lost both his legs in an IED attack in Afghanistan in 2007. He still serves on active duty, at Fort Benning, and started his charity because he knew what people injured in combat need to heal and come back.

"I hope I can bring awareness, a lot of people don't know the sacrifices our men and women make to fight for our freedom, get them to help," Brennan said. "If I can do that, then I will consider this a win."

Mount Pleasant businesswoman Susan Marlowe was crowned queen of the Krewe for the year, replacing former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford.

As the evening wore on, the party included a little jazz and a lot of food. It also gave folks a chance to mingle with actor Tom Berenger, who served as Grand Duke. Berenger, star of "Platoon" and "The Big Chill," said he'd never been part of a Mardi Gras event before, but "I'm happy to do it because it's for charity."

Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, the event's grand marshal, said there was much more to this than just a party.

"Mardi Gras, the parade, is a family event," Livingston said. "It is a fun day for the family."

That is the idea the Krewe hopes to foster with their events and their charity work, in hopes that one day Charleston will be an outpost for the celebration the same as New Orleans or Mobile. In that, they succeeded. Christine Cirelli of Charleston, one of the ball's attendees, said Saturday was a chance to dress up and hit the town.

"This is phenomenal," Cirelli said. "I'll definitely come back."

And that's what it is going to take if Charleston is going to establish itself as the East Coast home of Mardi Gras. Maybe someday soon, said Charleston Mayor Pro Tem Dean Riegel.

"I think it's a marvelous idea," the master of ceremonies said. "We hope one day to have that parade. It will be the first one on the East Coast."

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