Barrett and O’Shea crowned at annual Mardi Gras

Calvert County United Way 2017 Mardi Gras King Michael O'Shea and Queen Bonnie Barrett
Calvert United Way 2017 Mardi Gras King Michael O'Shea and Queen Bonnie Barrett

Dowell, MD - The centuries-old tradition of Mardi Gras went high-tech Saturday evening, March 4 when Calvert County’s 18th annual celebration featured a new twist to its annual voting. For the first-time ever, event attendees were allowed to cast last-minute votes for the five candidates—two women seeking the queen’s crown and three men vying for king. Revelers could use their personal phones to click on their choice of king and queen by making a donation. “The last-minute texting was the surprise,” said United Way of Calvert County President and CEO Kelly Chambers.

In the two hours leading up to the announcement of the new king and queen, those gathered at Annmarie Sculpture Garden’s Arts Center watched the additional tallies that were registered while they ate New Orleans-style cuisine prepared and served by Maryland Country Caterers, bid on an array of auction items, parted with their money at the gaming tables and danced to the soulful sounds of Moonshine Society. The crowd also enjoyed the food and acoustical music of Funkazilla in the “Speakeasy Lounge.”

When it was time to reveal the new king and queen, an attorney and a bank manager—Michael O’Shea of Dunkirk and Bonnie Barrett of Lusby--emerged as the people’s choices.

“For 52 years I have lived in Calvert County,” Barrett said earlier in the evening. “The people of Calvert County are very important to me. I live here, I work here and I volunteer my time here.”

O’Shea outpolled his competitors—James Risinger of Lusby and Billy Saunders of Prince Frederick—while Barrett received the most votes in the race for queen with Denise Collins of Lusby. The votes are based on dollars raised and the five candidates held fundraisers during the months leading up to Mardi Gras. Chambers noted some of those events, which included a fashion show, a “lip-synching” contest, and a “luxury raffle”—were quite innovative. One of Collins’ fundraisers was a “pajama champagne brunch.”

When asked earlier in the evening about her favorite aspect of seeking the distinction of being queen of the Mardi Gras, Collins stated it was “the people I’ve met in the county that I didn’t know. It’s been a huge great experience in my life.”

In addition to the funds realized from the candidates’ campaign events (an estimated over $70,000), 60 corporate sponsors—along with 10 individuals (including a local elected official and a judge) and two couples—supported Mardi Gras.

Chambers told that O’Shea and Barrett will be invited to sit on committees and the organization’s board of directors during their one-year reign. The funds raised will support United Way of Calvert County’s Community Impact and Basic Needs grants. Those programs facilitated by the local United Way’s umbrella agencies, work to improve health, financial stability and education for county residents.

Contact Marty Madden at

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