Recently a friend in North Carolina wrote and asked, “So what’s going on in Galveston this time of year?” My hasty response was short and sweet: “Nothing!”
All kidding aside, mid-to-late January is a really slow time on the Island. The holidays have passed and late January finds the community pretty quiet in the days that lead up to St. Valentine’s Day and the onset of Mardi Gras 2020! Those are two big reasons to celebrate but sadly, they’re not until mid-February. Checking all the calendars and sites that post Island happenings, there really is not much that registers on the LGBTQ radar. I suppose we could call this period the “Winter Doldrums.”
In truth, quiet and boring may not be such a bad thing. After all, January is a month in which to regroup and ready oneself for the new year and, of course, hit a few January White sales. As the shopping possibilities for fine linens are very limited in Galvetraz, that option does not play out so well; Walmart can only sell so many towels and sheets.
As the Island transitions from the winter holidays and decorations come down, the stores begin to fill with red and white everything for St. Valentine’s Day and parking lot tents spring up at florists and Kroger on the Seawall. The one thing that does signify something big is coming is the several aisles of Mardi Gras “stuff” that takes over the Galveston Walmart. Every year it seems the amount of purple, gold and green kitsch grows larger and more creative. As you might expect there is everything imaginable on shelves. About the only thing I have not seen are glow-in-the-dark, Mardi Gras colored cock rings; given the entrepreneurial types on the island, we may eventually see some glowing crotches in the three bars that are most frequented by the Galveston LGBTQ crowd.
Regardless of where you hang out or party, the Island is gearing up for Mardi Gras 2020. There is some serious litigation taking place right now that will determine how and where the actual celebrations and parades will take place. Some downtown merchants have for a long time complained about the rowdy crowds, lack of shoppers, closing public streets, and charging people to enter the official Mardi Gras area. Challengers say it is illegal to block public streets and charge an entry fee. Others say it is too loud, too messy and uncontrolled. I would imagine when you get right down to it, it is more about who is making the money vs. who is not. Mardi Gras will go on, just as it has; floats will pass, beads will fly, there will be lines for porta-potties, music will play, and beer will flow. We’re just not exactly sure where at this point.
I think I would tell my North Carolinian friend that although things are a little quiet, there is still a lot of things to do on the Island. Galveston still offers some mighty fine restaurants, museums, galleries, the beach, great neighborhoods to explore (on foot, car, or bicycle), the 1894 Grand Opera House is starting its 125th season with some outstanding presentations.
For those that enjoy fishing, January is a great time to still net a few flounder and catch your limit in bull reds (redfish). Our Houston friends love to come to the Island during January as it is not as crowded, lines are not long, and traffic is pretty calm — unless you are on the Harborside Race Track!
This is always a fun time of the year to watch as the insides of the bars, whether gay, straight or stray, transform into Mardi Gras Madness. Robert Mainer and Robert’s Lafitte still “win the prize” for the most decorated watering hole. The staff there goes all out and the festive environment and fabulous drag shows make for some real Island fun, thanks, Jada and girls.
Todd Slaughter is still offering a fun and fabulous place to hang out, catch some top-notch performances and parades. Rumors Beach Bar on the Seawall still packs ’em in at night and especially on the weekend. Todd and his capable staff make sure the drinks are flowing, the music is playing, and patrons are enjoying their visit. The shows are absolutely amazing. Dessie Love Blake puts together the best of the best and with all her connections, brings some great talent to the rock!
Over at 23rd Street Station Piano Bar, Todd and Tommy have done an excellent job of providing locals and visitors with some spectacular talent. The piano thing has grown and keeps the bar-hopping at all hours. Over the past year, manager Jim Greaser along with Todd and Tommy have secured some great, fun talent to keep the vibe going. A piano bar is always a risk, but a quick look around and you will plenty gay, straight, curious, and fun-seeking folks enjoying the successful club.
So, is January “dead” or just resting? Having lived here many years I can honestly say that the Island, no matter what month, is still worth a visit and fun place to ensure a good time. Come on down and check out the clubs, the locals, and the friendly attitude that permeates the LGBTQ community. A resident of Galveston where he can be found wasting bait and searching for the meaning of life, Forest Riggs recently completed a collection of short stories about his beloved island and is working on a novel.