The number at this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans are reported to have decreased significantly, dampened by the tragic damage and loss of life caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but a local cajun food eatery run by a New Orleans native wants to use Mardi Gras spirit and festivities to raise money for victims of the tragedies.

“Let the Good Times Roll! (Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler),” a Mardi Gras festival and benefit with live zydeco music, raffles and cajun food including a crawfish boil, is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 4th, at Uncle Darrow’s, 2560 Lincoln Blvd., Venice. Admission is free.

The event will feature “good ole bayou music” and a zydeco dance contest.

The group Bonne Musique Zydeco will perform throughout the afternoon, led by Bervick J. Deculus, a Creole-born native of southwest Louisiana. Deculus’s musical teeth were cut with New Orleans jazz, Dixieland and blues music of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He comes from a musical family, as his cousin is Zydeco Queen Ida, a New Orleans musician and dancer. Bonne Musique Zydeco was started in 1992 and specializes in the homespun sounds of Louisiana and east Texas.

Proceeds will benefit ReUnite America, a nonprofit foundation to benefit hurricane victims, started in the storms’ aftermath by Uncle Darrow’s entrepreneur, Norwood Clark.

Clark himself is a New Orleans native. Although he moved to California in the late 1970s, his family was personally affected by the storm. His great-aunt, Elizabeth Clark, disabled and 103 years old, had her home in the New Orleans Ninth Ward destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and she died a few days after being displaced by the storm.

Clark has been active in helping Hurricane Victims ever since. Following Hurricane Rita, he drove with a group of about 12 volunteers to Houston to deliver supplies and aid evacuees.

JAZZ BENEFIT — The efforts of Clark and ReUnite America won’t end as the Mardi Gras hype fades, he says.

ReUnite America has teamed up with Playboy Jazz Festival organizers to organize a jazz concert benefit at Santa Monica College.

“Bridging the Gulf — Operation Hands On,” a festival and benefit concert for local and Gulf Region evacuees, is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Santa Monica College Corsair Field, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Tickets are $10.

Currently confirmed to perform is keyboardist Jeff Lorber and his band. Lorber is also one of this year’s featured Playboy Jazz Festival performers.

The event will feature a lineup of performers billed by George Wein’s Festival Productions, the group that, in addition to the Playboy Jazz Festival, produces the Newport Jazz Festival, Newport Folk Festival, Essence Music Festival and the Verizon Music Festival.

Festival Productions has promoted concerts for Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Harry Connick, Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall and other jazz greats.

This year’s Playboy Jazz Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 17th and 18th, at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

A number of community concerts are planned throughout the region

The local jazz benefit event will also feature the efforts and cooperation of Habitat for Humanity and Santa Monica College, which is providing the venue free of charge.

In addition to the musical entertainment, the event will pay honor to “first responders” — volunteers who traveled from various parts of California to help in Gulf Coast rescue and recovery efforts.

Information, (310) 306-4862.

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