Success Of Galveston's Mardi Gras Opening Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

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Galveston kicked off Mardi Gras this weekend, and depending on who you talk to, it was either a wild success or a milder version of past pre-Lenten festivities.  

RoShelle Gaskins, spokesperson for the visitor's bureau, told Hair Balls, "With the weather and everything we really saw the typical crowd."  She said people didn't stay as long because of the rain, but seemed to be happy to be on the island supporting the Ike-recovery efforts.

But media reports suggest this year's Mardi Gras didn't generate the same hoopla as years past. It could've been a slow first weekend, which is not unheard of, or it could still be the Ike stigma.

Gaskins couldn't give us any numbers but it seems the crowd was smaller than hoped.  Partygoers enjoyed the usual Mardi Gras merriment, live music and a Carnival on 25th and Strand--generally reserved for the seawall.  However, business was anything but usual. 

The Galveston County Daily News reported on the number of shops permanently closed for business and those only open because a trip to the restroom or shelter from the rain could amount to some much-needed revenue. Antique shops and other high-end, low-traffic places in and around Galveston typically close during Mardi Gras so crowds don't stumble around the valuable merchandise, but this year it only made sense to stay open.

In the post-Hurricane Ike Mardi Gras, the downtown entertainment district was scaled back, meaning fewer people and a more subdued crowd.

Those that do visit the island have found a new photo opportunity -- lines indicating the water level after the storm have become popular tourist attractions and several of the weekend visitors took snap shots to remember by.

"There was no effect on Mardi Gras from Hurricane Ike. We did it bigger and better this time," Gaskins told Hair Balls. "The hotels are full (and) Moody Gardens' attendance is up."

But the Chicago Tribune reported otherwise. Its article painted a picture of many of the neighborhoods and businesses still in ruins. The aftermath prompted a significant loss in jobs and revenue and dramatically curbed tourism, it told Chicagoans, which acted as a major source of income for Galveston.

Gaskins told Hair Balls that they definitely stepped up advertisement, and she expects to see a larger turn out this weekend.

-- Amina Rivera

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