Mardi Gras Southeast Texas
Mardi Gras season is upon us, and there’s no bigger party than the annual Mardi Gras Southeast Texas in downtown Port Arthur beginning Thursday, Feb. 27, through Sunday, March 2. If you’ve never witnessed Mardi Gras Southeast Texas, these fine folks know how to throw a party since they’ve been doing it for 20-plus years now — 22 to be exact.
This year’s theme is Island Fever, and it couldn’t come at a better time after all the nasty weather Southeast Texas has endured over the past few weeks. Get ready to witness the most lavish, gigantic floats with color, theme and attractiveness that wows the crowd; plenty of places to purchase all the beads and goodies to be thrown on the parade route; tons of musical entertainment; the plethora of vendors; and, of course, there’s a carnival for kids.
The history of this big party dates back to April 1990 when a casual conversation between two friends launched Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas. After nearly three years of planning and joined by 18 community minded nonprofit organizations, the highly successful first event was held in downtown Port Arthur in February 1993.
It is hailed by many as the catalyst that started the resurgence of downtown Port Arthur. The purposes envisioned by the founders were to benefit the member nonprofit groups, to stage a family oriented affair, to promote interaction among diverse ethnic groups, to promote racial harmony and to serve as an economic development project for Southeast Texas. Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas Inc. received its nonprofit Charter from the state of Texas on Feb. 18, 1992.
To get you into the Mardi Gras spirit, here’s a quick reference guide on the meanings behind all the madness.
Mardi Gras, meaning “Fat Tuesday” when is translated from French, is the last chance before Lent for revelry, and almost anything goes. It can occur on any Tuesday between Feb. 3 and March 9. Mardi Gras is set 46 days prior to Easter — the 40 days of Lent plus six Sundays.
In the late 1700s, pre-Lenten events were held in New Orleans. Under French rule, masked balls flourished but were banned later when Louisiana was under Spanish rule. After becoming an American city, New Orleans’ fun loving Creole populations convinced the governor to allow Mardi Gras balls in 1823. In 1837, a costumed group of revelers walked in the first documented parade. Due to the violence of several masked paraders during this period, Mardi Gras once again faced prohibition. Six New Orleanians formed the first “krewe,” Comus, and proved Mardi Gras could be a fun and beautiful celebration. Comus began several traditions such as forming a secret Carnival society, choosing a namesake from mythology, having themed parades with floats and costumed maskers, and having a ball. Krewe Rex began in 1872 and has been known as the “King of Mardi Gras” ever since. Most krewes parade and select a king and queen to reign over the masked tableaux ball. This royalty usually rides on their own floats but don’t usually throw trinkets. Mardi Gras survived the war year and even the Great Depression. It is celebrated throughout the entire Gulf Coast from the Florida to Texas.
Each parade is special in its own way, but they are not created equal. They range from kids on bikes and little red wagon floats in area neighborhoods to the elaborate theme parades with floats that can hold up to 200 riders. Most parades have marching bands, jazz bands or flambeaux carriers interspersed with the floats.
How can we forget the King Cake? This is an oval, sugared cinnamon coffee cake that contains a plastic baby. Theperson who finds the baby is crowned “king” and provides the next cake. Originally, a bean was baked inside the cake, but has been replaced by the plastic baby. King cakes are available beginning Jan. 6, officially designated as the day the wise men found the baby Jesus.
The colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold. Purple represents justice, green stands for faith, and gold equals power. These colors have so much prominence in the state of Louisiana that Louisiana State University chose purple and gold as its colors, and Tulane University went with green.
Back to Southeast Texas, forget what you hear about New Orleans, or even Galveston. Mardi Gras Southeast Texas has everything you need, minus all the headaches.
Tickets are available for online purchase at mardigras. portarthur.com. If you want to get started with the Mardi Gras décor, the perfect spot is the Mardi Gras Star at 3830 FM 365 near the Retail Merchants Association.
Thousands of Southeast Texans are ready to catch Island Fever. Are you?
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Thursday, Feb. 27
Courir Parade – 4:45 p.m.
J.A.G. – 6 p.m.
The Stark Experiment – 8 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 28
6 p.m. – midnight
Krewe of Krewes Parade – 7 p.m.
American Sons – 7 p.m.
Robert Earl Keen – 10 p.m.
Saturday, March 1
noon – midnight
Royalty Marce – 1 p.m.
Motorcycle Run – 5:30 p.m.
Krewe of Aurora – 6 p.m.
Port Arthur Playboys – 3 p.m.
Lil’ Wayne & Same Ole 2 Step – 5:30 p.m.
Harrison Swift – 8:30 p.m.
Casey Donahew Band – 10 p.m.
Sunday, March 2
Noon – 8 p.m.
Munchkin Parade – 2 p.m.
Truck Parade – 4 p.m.
Champagne Room – 3 p.m.
Travis Matte & The Kingpins – 6:30 p.m.