By Forest Riggs
Where has the time gone? It’s hard to believe but Mardi Gras 2019 is here.
The Island has once again come alive in shades of purple, green and gold. Just about anyone and everything is adorned with the Mardi Gras colors, from beads to storefronts, sidewalks and balconies; even “Mardi Gras Trees” shining brightly from windows all over the island. It is definitely party time and as the traditional saying goes, “Let the Good Times Roll” (translated).
King cakes are being served in every nook, cranny and home. Second only to New Orleans, the annual Galveston Mardi Gras celebration has become a huge drawing factor for the Island. Thousands of revelers cross the causeway or ride the Bolivar Ferry to get to the festive and touted celebration. It’s two weeks of absolute craziness and Galveston loves it!
In 1949, country singer Hoyle Nix released the song “Big Balls in Cowtown” and though it was widely received it wasn’t until a few years later when Texas legend Bob Wills made the song famous. With its funny lyrics and vivid description of the craziness of a dance, especially a Texas ball in Fort Worth, the song remains a popular western swing tune. Later versions by Asleep at the Wheel and Texas Troubadour George Strait, have the kept the song popular among all generations.
The big balls in Cowtown, the big balls in town,
The big balls in Cowtown, we’ll all go down.
Put on your new shoes, put on your gown,
The big balls in Cowtown, let’s all go down.
Simple lyrics, but they convey so much. Now substitute Gal”” for “Cow” and you get the picture. Galveston is the place to be, big balls and all!
The Galveston Mardi Gras balls are legendary. Just about every Krewe from large to small has a ball or some sort of gathering and party. These balls range from “highbrow” to “no brow” and everything in between — silks gowns and tuxedos to T-shirts, jeans and even topless displays of human anatomy. As the parades roll by and beads are flying you can often hear the shout “Show us your tits” (the latter more popular the later the night and the more beer that has been flowing, and flow it does during Mardi Gras celebrations).
This year there are over 56 scheduled parades, but the Momus night parade and the Fat Tuesday parade are by far the most rowdy. There are posters and websites listing all the parades and routes. For the most up to date list check Galveston.com or Mardigrasgalveston.com.
Not all the fun and festivities are “adult” as there are numerous parades and parties for children and families. There are fire trucks, the Budweiser Clydesdales, army tanks, bands, pets on leashes, clowns and colorful street vendors. The beautiful floats are always a big hit and filled with generous bead-tossers. From Kings and Queens to Island son, billionaire Tillman Fertitta, they are all there, trimmed in glitz and glimmer, all the while interacting with the throngs gathered along the parade route.
If parades and loud music are not your thing, check out 23rd Street Station Piano Bar, Rumors Beach Bar or ever the famous Robert’s Lafitte. All these bars will be partying hard during the two weeks of Mardi Gras. With inviting drink specials, shows, food and colorful crowds, a good time will be had by all.
Of course, all good things must come to an end, but not before the big blowout on Fat Tuesday evening. The Strand party and parade are a huge combination of all Krewes, marching bands and parade participants from the past two weeks. This is the “granddaddy of ’em all” when it comes to good times and celebrations. With Ash Wednesday and Lent just a few hours away, revelers want to get in every last bit of wickedness, fun and frivolity.
I’ll stay in Gal, town, I’ll stick around
The big balls in Gal town, let’s all go down.
If you’ve never been to a Galveston Mardi Gras celebration or attended a party or ball, you just might want to come on down to the “Island near Texas” and see what all the fuss is about. “Across the causeway is a good time any time!”
Forest Riggs, a resident of Galveston is no stranger to the adventures of life. A former educator and business owner, he enjoys Island life and all that comes with it. He says he is a “raconteur with a quixotic, gypsy spirit.” Forest has written for several newspapers and magazines as well as other writing pursuits, including a novel and collection of short stories.