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Weekly guide to Houston: Five (plus) don't-miss events — Mardi Gras & BBQ included

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Barbecue at Pecan Lodge in Dallas
The three-day barbecue binge, otherwise known as the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, gets underway on Thursday at Reliant Park. Pecan Lodge Catering/Facebook
James Gaffigan conductor
Two young classical music hot shots, including conductor James Gaffigan, are set to helm a timeless program of brawny scores with the Houston Symphony. Photo by Mat Hennek
Events_San Luis Salute Gala_March 2011
A scene from the 2011 San Luis Salute Mardi Gras black tie gala. Courtesy photo
New Orleans Hustlers Brass Band
The New Orleans Hustlers Brass Band will perform at the First Annual Mardi Gras Jamboree & Gumbo Showdown. Courtesy of New Orleans Hustlers Brass Band/Facebook
Summer Solstice Observation at Rothko Chapel
The Rothko Chapel celebrates Losar, aka the Tibetan New Year. Courtesy of Rothko Chapel
Barbecue at Pecan Lodge in Dallas
James Gaffigan conductor
Events_San Luis Salute Gala_March 2011
New Orleans Hustlers Brass Band
Summer Solstice Observation at Rothko Chapel
Joel Luks, head shot, column mug, April 2013

Bid adieu to the month of love and say hello to the month of big-as-Texas celebrations. Plenty of Houston happenings will keep us occupied, including foodie parties and competitions, energetic classical music, Mardi Gras gatherings and a Tibetan ritual that cleanses our troubles away.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo 2014 World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest

What would rodeo season be without barbecue? Inconceivable. Although officially the three-week rowdy hootenanny runs March 4 through March 23, plenty of happenings such as the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest build up to this 82-year tradition.

In a party ambiance that includes beer, live music and dancing, more than 300 cooking teams will duke it out for Texas-sized bragging rights. While anyone can attend the cook off, access to competitor tents is by invite only. Yes, there are public areas, but it's best to befriend those that know the ins and outs of this smoky fest.

The skinny (as if): Thursday through Saturday; $15 adults, $5 children ages 3-12; Reliant Park.

Houston Symphony presents Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody

Two young classical music hot shots are set to helm a timeless program of brawny scores with the Houston Symphony. Tchaikovsky Piano Competition winner Daniil Trifonov, who has a penchant for summoning the dark side of classical music, is featured in Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which everyone loves because of the tender 18th variation that inverts the popular melody of the Caprice in A Minor.

Joining the Russian pianist is conductor James Gaffigan, who at one point was considered for the Houston Symphony's post of music director. He has energy to burn, which he will need to get through the mammoth of an oeuvre that's Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, in particular the D major finale that sounds a triumphant, redemptive conclusion to music that has an otherwise troubled affect.

The skinny: Friday through Sunday; tickets start at $25; Jones Hall.

Mardi Gras! Galveston 2014

'Tis the second weekend of Mardi Gras in Galveston, which includes the 18th Annual San Luis Salute black tie gala on Friday, the 30th Annual Tremont House "Pearls and Prohibition" Mardi Gras Ball and Parade Viewing Party on Saturday, balcony parties everywhere, concerts and a handful of parades through the weekend.

As revelers hurry up and make plans to join in the celebration, don't be surprised if some of these events are sold out quickly.

The skinny: Friday through Sunday; fee varies by event; Galveston.

First Annual Mardi Gras Jamboree & Gumbo Showdown

Who says you have to drive to Galveston to partake in Mardi Gras festivities? Market Square Park is getting into the Fat Tuesday action with this first annual event that spotlights beer, gumbo and music. The New Orleans Hustlers Brass Band and T Bird and the Breaks will set the ambiance for a foodie feud plus an illuminated art car procession.

For those not done letting the good times roll, mosey over to El Big Bad, Hearsay Gastro Lounge and Batanga as the fete continues into the wee hours of the morning.

The skinny: Saturday, 4-8:30 p.m.; Market Square Park; free admission.

Tibetan New Year Celebration

After all that partying — read that: gratuitous drinking and whatever else you decide to inhale, snort or inject — it's time to cleanse the impurities away. The Ligmincha Bon-Buddhist Center for Meditative and Healing Arts, Dawn Mountain Tibetan Temple and Houston Zen Center gather at the Rothko Chapel to celebrate Losar, aka the Tibetan New Year.

The occasion begins with a ritual smoke offering that sees tensions float away into nothingness, followed by a meditation plus a ringing of a Tibetan bowl.

The skinny: Sunday, 3 p.m.; Rothko Chapel; free event, $10 suggested donation.

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