Vevay celebrates the beginning of a new year with an annual tradition Friday.

In honor of the Vevay-Switzerland County Bicentennial, Vevay's First Friday celebrates the new year with Mardi Gras festivities much like those of long-ago Switzerland County ancestors.

Mardi Gras was celebrated at the start of the new year in Vevay, not according to the religious calendar, a release said. The celebration, which was noted in a 1915 "Indiana Magazine of History" article by Julia Knox, began long before anyone could remember or why the Mardi Gras celebrations took place during New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

"Vevay has a custom peculiar to herself, the origin of which we have been unable to trace..." Knox's article said. "The citizens, chiefly the younger and livelier (but often even the older and more dignified join in the sport) masked and dressed in all sorts of grotesque costumes, call from house to house."

Instead of visiting house-to-house as visitors did in yesteryear, the First Friday events encourage participants to visit local businesses in masks and costumes in celebration of the new year and the area's bicentennial. Tickets will be given to costumed visitors for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the 2013 Flair for Wine. Tickets must be taken to the Switzerland County Visitors' Center before 9 p.m. The drawing will take place at Vevay's First Friday events on May 3.

First Friday events take place each month - rain or shine from January through December - in downtown Vevay. Events include local art exhibitions, free carriage rides and extended business hours for local merchants.

Other upcoming 2013 First Fridays include a Swiss Chocolate-themed event in February and a soup event in March.