If anyone fears that Seattle is losing its identity, they need only look as far as the recommendations of Mayor Paul Schell's first Mardi Gras task force for reassurance.
Using just their bare hands, the members of the Pioneer Square Events Task Force have created an astoundingly passive-aggressive, win/win, only-in- Seattle solution to the Mardi Gras problem: Simply retool the current drinking/ flashing bacchanal into the family-friendly Pioneer Square February Fest. Among the potential attractions: cook-offs, Spam carving, log pulls, and an all-ages no- alcohol dance. (Don't forget nap time.)
No, this isn't a stupid idea—it's brilliant. That is, it's brilliant once you realize the task force's real intention is to help Mayor Paul Schell avoid killing Mardi Gras with a single stroke. The February Fest approach would, instead, starve the event to death.
For starters, the task force's recommendations include seizing control of the event from the Square's bar owners. The Pioneer Square Mardi Gras (a.k.a. "Fat Tuesday") was created as a promotion to lure customers to drinking establishments during the cold winter months. By reducing potential bar profits (the report also calls for early bar closings during the festival), this recommendation not only pushes away the event's most fervent (and most financially impacted) boosters, it also takes away the very reason for Mardi Gras' existence.
Let's imagine for a moment that a group of residents and business people actually decide to give the February Fest idea a shot. There's no history or tradition associated with the event, except perhaps getting drunk and disorderly. Envision Pioneer Square in February—the Fremont Fair this ain't. After a money-losing year or two, expect the Fest to die of natural causes.
Let's hope Schell has sent a thank- you note to task force co-chair David Brewster, a man who already possesses the credentials for civic sainthood (he gave this columnist a job). Left to his own devices, Schell would have banned Mardi Gras with an angry tirade, then gotten mocked by the newspapers and his political rivals. Brewster's compromise allows the event to die quietly, without political intervention (and well after the November election).
Mark my words, Seattle: Mardi Gras is dead—and we can bury the February Fest right by its side.