Mardi Gras is a certain time of the year each year, so if you have smart residents, which I'm sure that you do, if you hold a Mardi Gras theme party on any other date, you would be wrong. So, with that in mind, I decided to have a New Orleans Jazz Night instead.
For decorations, I used some of the items from my Mardi Gras collection, but nothing that said Mardi Gras on it. I had a cool back drop that showed a scene of New Orleans buildings in the evenings with lamps on. I used this along one of the main walls in my lobby. I really wanted to focus on the Jazz side of this theme event, so I found a few nice pieces at Home Goods, such as a brass horn that I used as part of a center piece. I also used black balloons with musical notes on it around the lobby. And of course, you must have Jazz music playing throughout the evening. For me, I used CDs and played them during the "happy hour" reception that took place prior to the residents special dinner in the Dining Room. We have found that our residents prefer not to have music playing while they eat because it is hard for them to have their normal conversations.
The dinner menu for our New Orleans Jazz Night included crawfish and corn soup, bayou salad, Cajun Red Snapper, Crab stuffed Chicken Breast, Cajun Garlic Pork Roast, Hush Puppies, Hoppin' John, and Okra & Tomatoes. The servers were given Mardi Gras beads to wear and were allowed to wear jeans and a solid color shirt. You might get some more food ideas by looking on the internet or in specialty cookbooks. I know that my culinary director does use the internet a lot for special events.
I will say that when I advertised a New Orleans Jazz Night, that residents were a bit confused and did not really know how to dress for the event. I learned that when I create a new title to give a theme a twist, that I really need to drop a few more clues as to what might be appropriate for the party. I have a wonderful chairperson for my activities committee who is so creative, that she and her husband dress for all my events, (and even some that she celebrates in her own home). She would be a good resource for me and I will be using her to help me help the rest of the community with getting involved more.
P.S. Check out my store link for lots more resources