Mardi Gras comes to El Dorado Hills

By January 31, 2012

Veteran Sonoma Zydeco band Gator Beat stomps into El Dorado Hills for Mardi Gras 2012, the Vision Coalition’s gala fundraiser for healthy, safe, drug-free youth. The party starts at 6:30 p.m. on Feb 4 at Mercedes Benz of El Dorado Hills. Tickets are sold out.

Gator Beat’s Willard Blackwell will be out front in full wrap-around washboard armor, scratching out a clattering backbeat that promises to get El Dorado Hills’ finest out on the dance floor and shaking their posteriors. Gator Beat recently marked its 20th anniversary, and has seen its music evolve from a regional novelty into the main stream, crossing musical boundaries with an infectious energy that appeals to all ages.

Blackwell’s instrument is called a “Zydeco Frottoir,” which is Cajun for “rub board,” an acoustic refinement of the traditional washboard. It was was envisioned by the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, and built by master metal fabricator Willie Landry while the two worked at a Texaco refinery in 1946.

During Mardi Gras 2012 Vision Coalition Director DJ Peterson, who’s been called a magician for the way he seemingly pulls grant funding out of a hat, will prove conclusively that magic is alive and well in El Dorado Hills.

Peterson the magician will put on a magic show and, if we’re lucky, he’ll pull an actual rabbit out of an actual hat — he boasts that he’s one of the few active magicians to perform the trick — which leaves children of all ages wondering “Howdy Do Dat?” … which, fittingly, is Peterson’s stage name.

Peterson and his wife Judy, aka “Ponytails” the clown, are both multifaceted entertainers, and have performed around Sacramento for more than 10 years.

He touts the coalition’s successes every chance he gets. “We help save lives,” he said. “We have car crashes, drunk driving and increasing incidence of prescription drug abuse right here in this community. We’re here to do something about it.”

There’s no magic in keeping kids off drugs and alcohol, he said. “It takes solid, well-conceived youth programs, and that takes money.”

Funds raised go directly to school and community youth programs through a mini-grant process that many small programs depend on for their existence. Peterson often garners matching donations from outside sources.

Last year’s masquerade ball at Serrano was a huge success, but the venue only held 100 people. The Mercedes dealer holds 200.

The evening includes Cajun food, with classic Big Easy concoctions like Hurricanes and Mai Tais to wash it down. Beer, wine and hard cider tastings are also in the works.

County Superintendent of Schools Vicki Barber and Sheriff John D’Agostini are the featured speakers.

A silent auction, caricature booth, professional photo booth are all on the agenda, along with a raffle for a $5,000 diamond from Rogers Jewelers in Folsom. Tickets for the diamond are $50 each. Only 100 will be sold.

Tickets are available at Rogers Jewelry in Folsom, 965 E. Bidwell, or by contacting the Vision Coalition online at or by phone at (916) 941-8482.

Mike Roberts


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