Central Illinois Friends celebrates Mardi Gras

Central Illinois Friends held their annual Mardi Gras fundraiser on Friday, Feb. 17, at the Embassy Suites in East Peoria. Photos by Tom Wray

A sold out crowd came out to Central Illinois Friends (CIF) Mardi Gras fundraiser this past weekend.

Held annually, the event is one of the HIV service agency’s biggest fundraisers of the year. And despite moving to a new bigger space at the Embassy Suites Riverfront in East Peoria, it was a packed house. This year, 425 people came to celebrate Fat Tuesday.

CIF Executive Director Deric Kimmler said the Mardi Gras has been going on since 2014, including a virtual one in 2021.

“Last year [brought in] $30,000 to $40,000,” he said. “This year, we’re definitely gonna pass fifty.”

Darryl Pegues, who was recognized for 10 years at CIF.

Before the party started, Kimmler and CIF board members thanked the the crowd and the community for their support of the organization, which in the past year made possible the purchase of a mobile testing van.

CIF also gave their volunteer recognition, the Jay Martin Seales Award, to Dawn Horton, who had volunteered more than 250 hours in the past year. They also celebrated the tenth anniversary of CIF staff member Darryl Pegues.

The point of the event was to party in style. Along with a silent auction, food and drinks, there was music and dancing.