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Across the Causeway

February finds Galveston awash in beads, Cupid’s arrows and ashes 


By Forest Riggs

It is almost hard to believe that the month of February has arrived. It seems that only yesterday we were preparing wonderful Thanksgiving meals, decorating Christmas trees and watching New Year’s ball drop in New York City. As the old saying goes, Tempus Fugit, and indeed it does, for time passes so fast that it indeed appears to be flying. 

February is a special month on Galveston Island. The community comes alive to celebrate a few special days. The grandest celebration of all is, of course, Mardi Gras, which depending on the church calendar falls at some point in February. The two weeks of Mardi Gras lead up to Lent, the forty days before Easter, and as the date for Easter changes from year to year, so does Mardi Gras. This year Mardi Gras started on Friday, February 2 and will continue until February 13, which is Fat Tuesday. 

Locals like to think that the two weeks of Mardi Gras appeal to two different groups of participants — one for the residents and one for the tourists. However, most are hard pressed to say which is which, as both are filled with parades, balls, beads and all sorts of frivolity.  

Mardi Gras in Galveston has become a very close second to the granddaddy of them all in New Orleans. Galveston Island is much closer and more affordable than traveling to the Big Easy and staying for a few days. 

The first weekend was very successful and filled with fun. Friday kicked off with the Party Gras! procession, the George P. Mitchell Mardi Gras Ward Presentation honoring Bill and Libby Ansell, and the New Krewe Award going to the Krewe of Misfits. Friday night centered around the Funky Uptown Umbrella presented by the Daily News and culminated in the Mardi Gras Galveston Parade.  

The fun continued Saturday with the Jolly Jester Jaunt, a 5K run where runners wore outrageous costumes and get-ups. Noon saw another popular island event, the Mystic Krewe of Aquarius Parade, followed by the Zaniest Gold Card Parade, a Mix 96.5 Art Car and Jeep Parade and the ever-popular Krewe of Gambrinus Parade with headliner music by Gin Blossoms. The fun weekend wrapped up on Sunday with Fiesta Gras! with the Univision Houston Parade and a concert by Siggno. Sunday fun came to a close with the Las Locos Vaqueros y Jeeps Parade. With all the parades and activities, including Balcony Parties and Balls, the first weekend kicked off what is to be a fantastic 2024 Mardi Gras celebration. 

So what is next? February 9 through Fat Tuesday promises to bring even more fun to the mix. The 9th is First Responder Day! with free admission to veterans, active service personnel and all first responders. The parades start at 6:30 p.m. with the Danny Webber Memorial Firetruck Parade followed by the Krewe of Babalu’s All Krewe Parade and the Krewe of 93Q parade. The headliner will be Eli Young Band. 

The zany fun continues on Saturday, Feb. 10 with an afternoon and night filled with six parades, starting at 1 p.m. with Z Krewe’s Z Parade, the KRBE Parade, the Ben E. Keith Parade, Carnes Bumpin’ Bus Parade and the biggest and most anticipated of all, the 6 p.m. Knights of Momus Grand Night Parade. Millions of beads, trinkets, and gifts with fly as the floats, bands and participants pass by. Be sure and watch for Island son, Tillman Fertitta and family as they pass by hurling beads and surprises down to the eager crowds.  

Sunday, February 11 will be Family Gras! with free admission to the public. Three family-oriented parades will fill the afternoon, starting at noon. The Shriners Children’s Texas & Sunshine Kids Parade starts the fun, followed by the very popular Krewe of Barkus and Meoux Parade, locally known as the Pet Parade. Ending the day at 3 p.m. will be the Firefighter’s Children’s Parade. 

And finally,  February 13 brings Fat Tuesday! This is the night of nights, the apex of Mardi Gras partying and parades. One might say this is the final, sinful blowout before Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day, the next day. The final parade of Mardi Gras begins at 6:30 p.m. and includes the Mystic Krewe of Aquarius All Krewe Fat Tuesday Parade. This is the biggy! Beads fly and drinks flow, so be prepared. 

After all the fun and self-indulgence from the previous two weeks comes Ash Wednesday. This is the day when believers and participants receive palm ashes on the forehead and are reminded that “from dust you came and to dust you shall return†or “turn from sin and follow the Lord.â€Â Â 

Ash Wednesday begins the next 40 days of Lent. During this time participants are urged to “give up†sinful things and various pleasures, as a sign of their intention to do better and live a repentant life. This can be a real big thing for many. Some give up chocolate and sweets, some stop smoking, some stop consuming alcohol and others turn from their own personal “vices.â€Â Â 

I feel it is more important to give up such things as anger, hatred, gossip, bigotry, greed and those things that often prevent one from being at peace and an integral part of their community.  For believers, it is a 40-day journey of recognizing faults and striving to be a better person — a karma cleansing, if you will.  

The day “after the night before,†will find many a tad bit hung-over, feeling the pains of Fat Tuesday and not so ready to be marked with ashes. Also, it is St. Valentine’s Day — a day for love and lovers. This is the day little cupid is about shooting his love-tipped arrows and hoping for the best. If you get hit, make the best of it and fill the day with candy, red hearts and “I love you’s.†For those not struck by the arrows, hang in there. There’s always next year! 

Wishing all of us a happy and safe Mardi Gras, a thoughtful Ash Wednesday and healing Lent, and, of course, a sweet Valentine’s Day. 

Forest Riggs lives in Galveston. His book, ‘Galveston Memories and Related Stories’ is available at Amazon.com, OutSkirtsPress.com and ForestRiggs.com.