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    Mardi Gras Flight 420 to Land in the Castro

    By Gary Virginia–

    If you are craving the tastes, sounds, music and traditions of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, you need not fly 2,000 miles to the Big Easy. San Francisco’s Krewe de Kinque (pronounced “crew da kink” and KDK for short) social, charitable Mardi Gras club is turning 15 and is about to throw the best Mardi Gras party on the West Coast!

    Fasten your seat belt, put on your mask, and head over to The Café (2369 Market at Castro) on Saturday, February 10, for KDK’s themed extravaganza, Bal Masque XV – “Flight 420” benefiting Larkin Street Youth Services. Expect royal kings and queens, a costumed show incorporating the airline and cannabis theme this year, elaborate decor, staged photos by Gooch, exciting raffle and silent auction items, and specials on Hurricanes ($7) and Stoli drinks ($5).

    The best bang for your buck is the $40 advance VIP Party ticket ($50 door), that includes a 5–6 pm private reception featuring an authentic Southern/Creole buffet and hosted Stoli vodka bar, music by KDK King XIII Sergio Fedasz (Go BANG!), auction preview and your name in the printed program. Limited Gold Sponsor guests also can enjoy reserved seating ($100).

    The masked ball kicks into “high” gear from 6–9 pm ($20 advance/$25 door) featuring a Second Line Parade led by Grand Marshal Mark Leno, former CA State Senator and Assemblyman. Decorated umbrellas, noisemakers, and swaying cocktails will meander through the multi-level venue before the “tableaux” show takes flight. Rave reviews fly in annually for club performances by Deana Dawn, John Weber, Donna Sachet, Kit Tapata, Mark Paladini and more.

    The revelry of dancing and “earning your beads” by showing some flesh will culminate with the crowning of the new King and Queen XV, secretly chosen by the reigning King XIV Barry Miles and Queen XIV Lady Cuki Couture. The latter have led fundraising efforts to produce the ball with monthly benefits at The Edge bar and an October benefit at the SF Eagle last year.

    A krewe (pronounced “crew”) is an organization that puts on a parade or ball for the Carnival season. The term, thought to have been coined in the early 19th century, is best known for its association with Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, but also is used in other Carnival celebrations around the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

    Krewe de Kinque was coined by club founder Gary Virginia in 2004. Fearing community burnout of volunteer fundraisers in the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis and other emergency causes, he created the club to rally diverse (aka kinky) members of the LGBTQ community and allies. The first KDK benefits were held on February 21 and 22, 2004, for Immigration Equality and AIDS Benefits Counselors (now PRC.) Two days later on Fat Tuesday, February 24, Gary threw a Mardi Gras party at The Edge, and after a few libations, jumped up on a bench and declared himself Founder and King I of Krewe de Kinque, alongside his good friend KC Dare (Rick Ashworth), whom he declared Queen I. Cheering and dancing prevailed and it was time to let the good times roll.

    From such humble beginnings, KDK has raised tens of thousands of dollars for 24 charities and crowned 28 kings and queens. Emergency funds have been raised for victims of Hurricane Katrina, Peru and Japan earthquake relief; Oakland Warehouse Fire victims; and clients of the SF AIDS Emergency Fund and Breast Cancer Emergency Fund.

    Past beneficiaries also include: AIDS Housing Alliance, Food for Thought (Sonoma County), HepCarestream, Homobiles, Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, Jazzie’s Place (LGBT Homeless Shelter), MAGNET, Pets Are Wonderful Support, Rainbow World Fund, San Francisco Night Ministry, St. James Infirmary, Sunburst Projects/Mama’s Toy Drive, The Richmond/Ermet AID Foundation, Tenderloin Tessie’s Holiday Dinners and Transgender Law Center.

    In addition to KDK’s annual bal masque, club members will kick off Mardi Gras season at a members-only Twelfth Night party, held 12 days after Christmas each year. They also host a traveling Fat Tuesday bar crawl (this year on February 13 in the Castro).

    Tickets to the February 10 Bal Masque XV may be purchased online (https://mardigrassf.bpt.me) or by sending a check payable to Larkin Street Youth Services to: KDK, 156 Hancock St. #4, SF CA 94114. ($20 General Admission. 6–9 pm, $40 VIP 5–9 pm, $100 Gold Sponsor 5–9 pm reserved seat.) All tickets will be held at the door. 21 and over with photo ID required of all guests. Festive costumes, masks, and beads are encouraged! Stay abreast of KDK at Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/KDKinSF/). For more info, phone 415-867-5004. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

    Gary Virginia, Founder of Krewe de Kinque, is the former President of the Board of Directors of San Francisco Pride and Positive Resource Center.