Once again, Galveston Island is offering two weeks of Mardi Gras celebration. The island festival ranks second to New Orleans and there are those that say Galveston is now Number One.
Regardless of the ranking, rest assured the isle celebration is one not to miss. Following the movement of Easter through the calendar, dates for the festivities change each year. This year with Easter coming fairly early, Mardi Gras 2023 is officially February 10 through 21. With more than 55 parades, balls and parties scheduled, over three million beads are expected to be tossed to attendees lining the streets of Galveston.
One might say that Galveston has three “biggies” when it comes to festivals: The Lone Star Rally in November, Dickens on the Strand in December and Mardi Gras in February. All agree that the 10 days of craziness that comes with Mardi Gras is the biggest and best bash of all. Where New Orleans traditionally draws folks from all over the country, little ol’ Galveston’s Mardi Gras is now a bucket list must-do for thousands.
Mardi Gras Galveston has a rich and colorful history and has been going on for over 160 years. There have been pauses due to wars and economic lows, but Island son and billionaire George Mitchell had a vision and in 1985, the island’s Mardi Gras was reborn, rebooted and set in motion. Over the past 38 years the festivities have grown larger and larger, with hundreds of thousands of people lining the streets to catch beads, sing, dance and participate in the hedonistic activities of Mardi Gras. The parades are a huge draw and offer something for everyone. Adults and children turn out by the throngs to run along the floats with arms held high, shouting “throw me some beads!”
Depending on the parade, the routes vary; however, it is mostly down the Seawall to 25th and then on to downtown. There are some special parades that start downtown and make the loop around the Strand area. There is a fire truck parade, the infamous umbrella brigade on the first Friday night, the much-loved Barkus and Meoux parade with all the animals and, of course, the Krewe parades, including Momus, Gambrinas, Aquarius, Bacchus and others. Each year, new Krewes spring up and add their entries to the many parades.
As there are two weekends of parades and activities, it is wise to check out websites to see which parades interest you the most. Islanders go mad for the Krewe of Momus night parade on Feb. 18, turning off the Seawall and meandering down 25tth Street toward downtown. Signs of a great parade are noted by the dozens of bead strands left hanging from the power lines, poles and even Lady Victory’s outstretched arm at the intersection of Broadway and 25th.
Without a doubt the biggest party is the evening of Fat Tuesday (Feb. 21). This is a sort of culmination of all the krewes, events and participants. One might say it is the night for folks let their hair down and party hard. This night parade downtown is the final hoorah before Lent, which begins the next day with Ash Wednesday. The attitude is “go wild” and get it all out of your system before Lent begins. Religious or not, the Fat Tuesday celebration is one huge party — usually resulting in one huge headache the next day!
There are big name entertainers and all sorts of street musicians, vendors and merry-makers along the parade routes. Parking can be a problem, so plan to arrive early and make sure to obey signs posted in some of the neighborhoods.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to a house party along a parade route, these can be the icing on the cake as there is food, drink, music, parade-watching, bead-catching (and throwing) and of course, people watching.
Galvestonians are very friendly and proud. The locals love to welcome visitors for Mardi Gras and go out of their way to make every visitor feel welcome and part of the celebration. The clubs and restaurants offer many specials and events for folks attending. Music, food and drink are the man draw for visitors that want to experience Mardi Gras.
Remember, the catch phrase for Mardi Gras is laissez les bon temps rouler — let the good times roll — and roll they do!
WHAT: Galveston Mardi Gras
WHEN: February 10 through 21