Candidate lineup

ROYALTY — Each year, community residents are tapped as Mardi Gras king and queen candidates. The individuals raising the largest amount of funds are named king and queen for the year. Pictured from left at the 2020 event are Andrew Ferguson, 2018 Mardi Gras Queen Stephanie Welch-Strickland, Molly Schick, 2020 Mardi Gras Queen; Justin Powell, Jaime Hampton and Dr. Stephen Wall, 2020 Mardi Gras king.

The 13th annual Mardi Gras Ball sponsored by First Citizens Bank will be held virtually in 2021.

The winter event has raised more than $500,000 for the Haywood County Schools Foundation through the years and is vital to supporting scholarships and additional programs to support the school system.

“While we are saddened we aren’t able to be together face to face, we are determined to keep Mardi Gras alive,” said Jenny Wood, director of the Haywood County Schools Foundation. “This has been such an anticipated and positive event for our community and school system, we don’t want to lose momentum due to COVID-19.”

Aside from the First Citizen Bank $8,000 contribution, another individual has already donated $10,000, Wood said.

Last year’s event raised nearly $73,000.

Through the years, Mardi Gras funds have allowed the foundation to do following:

• Award more than 2,000 employee grants;

• Provide over 150 scholarships;

• Ensure teachers are second to none with district wide professional development opportunities;

• Renovate playgrounds;

• Fund Exceptional Children’s group and individual needs; • Purchase student Chromebooks to assist in remote learning;

• Assist with college-level books for some dually-enrolled students;

• Award specific scholarships for our Occupational Course of Study students.

“Transitioning to a virtual fundraiser is new, exciting, and scary all at the same time,” Wood said. “We are asking individuals to make a donation to the Mardi Gras fundraiser for 2021 or contribute what they would have spent at the face-to-face event. We fully intend to resume this popular ball as soon as possible.”

Fundraising letters have already been mailed to previous event supporters. Those willing to support all the programs offered through the Foundation can contribute online via PayPal at