Galveston's Fat Tuesday Gets a Little Thinner

According to

this Chronicle report

, Galveston Mardi Gras has decided to ax live music from the official festivities. Organizers say the bands cost too much money and created too much of bacchanalian atmosphere that jarred with the family vibe they want to create.

I’m not gonna argue the first point too much. Galveston Mardi Gras has been losing money for years, and I guess cutting the budget to the marrow is one way to turn that around.

And while I am down with the concept of a family Mardi Gras, I don’t think it will work in Galveston. All-ages Mardi Gras works very well in rural south Louisiana, but that’s because the families who participate in it are usually locals who see Mardi Gras as a way of life, not a money-making tourist attraction.

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And that’s always been the problem with Galveston’s Mardi Gras. In places with real Mardi Gras celebrations, you don’t buy a ticket to go in some cordoned-off, corporate sponsor-dominated “Mardi Gras zone,” as you do in Galveston. Mardi Gras is supposed to just permeate the city.

In New Orleans, police tolerate things they would hammer you with any other time. I was at a New Orleans Mardi Gras in 1989, crashing with some instant friends I met at a parade there. One of our number, drunk as a skunk, had gone off somewhere in her car in the wee hours. On her way home, she was observed by a cop clipping three parked cars as she weaved her way down the Big Easy’s potholed streets. And she got off with a warning – if she had done that any other time than Mardi Gras, the cop admonished, she would have gone to jail.

As ridiculous as it sounds, that’s the kind of lax ethics you’ve got to have if you are gonna have a real Mardi Gras. Since ancient times, going all the way back to the days of the Roman Saturnalia and the Greek Dionysia, Carnival has always been about sex and intoxication. You’re supposed to get blind drunk and make out with strangers in public at Carnival, for tomorrow you symbolically die.

Galveston’s never gotten that, and I think they will probably pull the plug on the event a few years from now. Galveston doesn’t need it now, the way it did when it was resurrected in the dark days of the oil bust, and it will need it even less when and if they bring in gambling down there. – John Nova Lomax


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