Over twenty years ago, the Magic Hat Brewing Company had a crazy idea: to gather the city of Burlington, Vermont together for a Mardi Gras-themed celebration to benefit a local non-profit. The only catch was that the Vermont brewer had to figure out how to get Burlingtonians outside for several hours in the middle of winter's coldest, most unforgiving month of February. After countless hours of asking local businesses to participate with a float, working with the city of Burlington, the police department, the fire department and many more organizations, the parade was ready to go, but the question remained: Would anyone actually show up? No one knew.
As the motley crew of floats rounded the first corner from Main Street onto Church Street, Magic Hat was shocked to see a couple thousand screaming citizens eager to catch beads, chocolates and a glimpse of the floats. So began the annual ritual of the Magic Hat Mardi Gras Weekend.
Magic Hat has helped to thaw the frozen winter streets of downtown Burlington and, more importantly, raised money through revelry for non-profits such as HOPE Works and Vermont Foodbank over the last twenty years.