Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday for the literal, let loose like no other in our downtown last night. There were the obligatory strands of green, gold, and purple beads swinging from everyone’s necks; faces painted heavy with festive make-up; and costumed, masked folk carousing and dancing with abandon. Those were just the children. Hordes of them, in fact, who flocked to the parking area of Bourbon Street with their parents for an all ages carnaval benefitting the Autism Program in the Fullerton Elementary School District.

Larry Houser, co-owner of Bourbon Street, founded Fullerton Cares in an effort to bring awareness to this pervasive developmental disorder known as autism. He believes that putting together events focusing on educating his audience about this disorder will help children receive much needed services in a more expedient manner. Fundraising helps to keep these integrated events going and to aid autism benefit foundations.

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As promised for the evening, there was a cavalcade of entertainers: stilt walkers, jugglers, mimes, The Dixiedelics and much more. The back lot was teeming with wee ones queuing up for booths of face painting, balloon twisting and caricature drawing. To expend some of their boundless energy, a bounce house was ready and waiting to be demolished. A platform stage stood next to it, besieged by tiny dancers shaking their groove thangs and where the tap class from CF Dance Academy put on an inspired performance. For the older kids, the Game Truck provided hours of non-stop video game ecstasy.

Now, what would Mardi Gras be without the rich and fattening food? Heroes/Roscoe’s/Joe’s owner Jack Franklyn took care of the younger palates by grilling up some classic hot dog combos. The Lime Truck (winner of Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race Season 2) had dueling trucks doling out braised short rib poutines; hangar steak tacos, Filipino pork adobo tacos; and other sinful and savory dishes.

While this family-oriented festival was all happening outdoors (with weather that was virtually perfect), inside Bourbon Street it resembled more that of the French Quarter with tipsy revelers carrying on until past the midnight hour. In the end, everyone went home with at least a little piece of the autism puzzle pinned to their hearts.

Autism is a brain development disorder (including autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger Syndrome) that affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. To learn more about autism and for information on advocacy, visit www.autismspeaks.org. To make a donation or to volunteer on a local level, contact Larry Houser at fullertoncares@yahoo.com.



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