Abe, Mardi Gras and Cupid will be vying for our attentions this week as their respective February fetes come in fast-and-furious succession Feb. 12, 13 and 14.

You can choose one to celebrate.

Or, better yet, you can throw caution to the wind and party hearty over all three.

To make either option easier, here's a guide to the main events attached to each observance on the Twin Cities front, and beyond:

Lincoln's birthday

You can start your Abe observance early, on Thursday, with the February edition of "Lunch and Learn" in the McLean County Museum of History's Governor Fifer Courtroom.

The free presentation, at 12:10 p.m., will offer museum librarian and curator Bill Kemp discussing "Abraham Lincoln and the Founding of the Illinois Republican Party."

The talk will center on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, its threat to spread slavery into free Northern territories and the formation of the Republican Party at the state convention.

And don't forget the permanent exhibit that Kemp curated, "Abraham Lincoln in McLean County," on view whenever your schedule permits ... lunch hour or otherwise.

For B-N's official Abe party with cake and candles, head to the David Davis Mansion State Historic Site from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday for its annual Lincoln b-day fete.

In case you've lost count, the 16th president turns a venerable 209 this Feb. 12.

He's being ably channeled by Carlinville-based Lincoln portrayer Randy Duncan.

"We're doing something a little different this year," says mansion spokesman Jeff Saulsbery of the annual reminder that Judge Davis was one of Abe's closest friends and political allies and was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1862 by the president.

"Instead of characters giving the tour, we are going to do a brief tour, and have Lincoln in the mansion dining room in a kind of 'meet-and-greet,' interacting with the public and taking pictures with the kids ... and the young in heart."

Fat Tuesday

A year ago, Fat Tuesday came into its own hereabouts with the first-ever New Orleans-style "second line parade."

That's the Big Easy tradition that typically involves a brass band leading a funeral procession, or "main line," through the French Quarter.

It was part of the premiere of Fat Tuesday on Market Street, organized by James Gaston, owner of downtown Bloomington's Jazz UpFront, as a kind winter counterpart to the Front Street Music Festival (which celebrated its second anniversary last summer).

This year's Fat Tuesday party is coming earlier thanks to FT landing on Feb. 13 this year.

A la last year, a quartet culled from B-N's long-running, seven-man Prairieland Dixie Band will lead the parade, which kicks off at 5:30 p.m. in front of Jazz UpFront, 107 W. Front St. (The party itself begins inside at 4:30 p.m. with a cocktail hour and climate-controlled band performance.)

A la last year, the parade will make stops for drinks and beads at Diggers, 230 E. Front St.; Rosie's Pub, 106 E. Front St.; and Anju Above, 220 E. Front  St.

After those stops, the parade revelers will march back, handkerchiefs a-waving, for the main event at Jazz UpFront: a traditional New Orleans dinner, including dessert, catered by Fort Jesse Cafe, Rosie's, Epiphany Farms and other vendors.

There, the full-strength Prairieland Dixie Band will play until 10 p.m.

Tickets for all of the above are $35 in advance from Jazz UpFront, Rosie's Pub and Digger's; the day of, they are $40.

Price includes dinner and dessert, music, masks, beads, handkerchiefs and one drink per establishment.

Valentine's Day

With 2018's V-Day falling midweek on Wednesday, there's no "weekend-overlap" advantage a la some years.

Even so, there are ways to observe prematurely, or as a mere prelude, to the main event, including these options:

  • No pain, no gain time again, folks, as the third "Fifty Shades of Grey" opus, "Fifty Shades Freed," is released Friday to area bijous, just in time to tell your true heart that love means never having to say "ouch, that hurt!"
  • For more traditional movie romantics, the Normal Theater has timed its showing of one of Hollywood's most timeless classics, "Casablanca," to V-Day itself. The 1942 Best Picture Oscar winner starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Here's looking at you, kids.
  • If movie-watching's too passive, then there's the entirely active annual offering from the ISU Jazz Ensembles I and II: the Valentine's Big Band Dance, set for 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday in Bloomington's New Lafayette Club. The $15 entry fee includes cash bar, plenty of swing/ballroom/etc. dancing and a modest dress code (no jeans or T-shirts, please). 
  • Theater buffs in the mood for love with some laughs can sample the Vermillion Players' Vegas wedding chapel-set rom-com, "Four Weddings and an Elvis." Friday-Saturday dinner and Sunday brunch performances at Pontiac's Eagle Performing Arts & Conference Center bracket either end of V-Day (Feb. 9-11 and Feb. 16-18).
  • If your idea of a healthy heart is one made of chocolate, inside and out, then has Uptown Normal got a rich and creamy wallow for you: the fourth annual Uptown Covered in Chocolate, set for 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, with various "sips, snacks and sales" at participating shops and eateries.
  • B-N's harmonically minded Sound of Illinois Chorus will once again be out and about on V-Day dispensing their popular Singing Valentines. The tux-garbed human greeting cards will be on call from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday. Logistically speaking, they will travel anywhere within 20 miles of the Twin Cities. The cost is $60, and includes two love songs, personalized Valentine's card, rose and "special gift." Add $10, and you get two tickets to the SOI Chorus' 76th annual show March 10 at the BCPA. Call Katie at 309-825-9350.
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