They sure know how to throw a party in Galveston. From alt-rockers Everclear to country crooner Kevin Fowler to the thumping beat of EDM's Made Monster, this year's Mardi Gras! Galveston has almost two weeks of non-stop revelry before Ash Wednesday brings it all to a screeching halt.
But we're all about the bead-tossing parades and trendy balcony viewing parties. With two dozen parades from which to choose, including adding a second iteration of last year's popular Tejano Gras, there's something for just about everybody. In general terms, the daytime parades tend to be family-friendly, while the nighttime parades bring on a party atmosphere, but we took it a step further to ask the question, "Which parade are you?"
Funky and Weird
The Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade, the 7th Annual Zaniest Golf Cart Parade and the Krewe D'iHeartMedia Art Car Parade all fit the bill, and they're all on opening weekend (February 2-3). Leah Cast, director of communications for the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, says Houstonians are already familiar with art cars, and that the zany golf carts get decorated in anything you can imagine. "We've seen golf carts covered in metal and made into like a transformer type machine. We’ve seen them decorated with cans, feathers."
Anybody can participate in the umbrella brigade, which is open to the public. "They just have to bring a decorated umbrella; they get to walk and dance in this parade," says Cast. "We have a lot of people who come in groups. We have a popular group in the umbrella parade — they all wear pink and black — it's dedicated to cancer awareness."
New This Year
RodeoHouston's Go Tejano Day tops attendance records year after year, and it seems to be a winning formula on the island, too. Organizers have added a second Fiesta Gras parade to this year's line-up. Grammy award-winning band La Mafia is headlining an afternoon concert on February 4; that's book-ended by the Fiesta Gras Estrella TV Parade at 1 p.m. and the Mega Fiesta Gras Parade at 4 p.m.
Also new to the schedule is the Mardi Gras! Galveston Parade on opening night; that's at 10 p.m. in the Strand District. One of the newer krewes participating is the Krewe of WHO?; their processional is on the afternoon of February 10.
The Party People
"The [Knights of Momus Grand Night] Parade is the largest. It definitely has the most floats," says Cast. "It's the largest krewe, it involves the most numbers of people." She says it starts at 25th and Seawall Boulevard and goes all the way to the Strand District, whereas most of the other parades cover only one of those areas."
Years ago the only way to attend a balcony party was through a friend-of-a-friend invitation. That's all changed, and now several of the krewes are hosting balcony parties for the 21-and-up crowd with cash bar, music and great views of the passing parades. Tickets and passes to these parties include gate admission to Mardi Gras! Galveston.
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The second Sunday offers a triple-threat for families. There's the Shriners Hospitals for Children & Sunshine Kids Parade at noon, followed by the Krewe of Barkus & Meoux Parade at 1:30 p.m. and the Mardi Gras Children's Parade at 3 p.m. Everybody loves seeing the mini cars in the Shriners parade; with some even getting a kick out of seeing the Shriners clowns. Cast says that people will dress up their pets in funny costumes for the Krewe of Barkus & Meoux parade (it's their 20th year). The last parade includes costumed kids and features local firefighters and first responders.
Born on Islanders
"If someone is looking for more of a hometown local vibe, less party crazy, the Fat Tuesday parade is truly more of a local parade, more of the locals come out and participate in that," says Cast. The Mystic Krewe of Aquarius 22nd Annual Fat Tuesday Parade kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on February 13. It's the last chance to gorge on indulgences before some folks begin the Lenten fast; for others it just marks a very sad day as we say farewell to Mardi Gras until 2019.
Mardi Gras! Galveston runs February 2-13 at 23rd and Strand Street, Galveston, mardigrasgalveston.com. General admission weekend tickets and five-day passes are available; tickets to the balcony viewing parties are available at extra cost.