Galveston Mardi Gras was first celebrated in 1867 with an elegant masked ball, and this city near Houston Texas has continued to hold amazing celebrations throughout the past 150 years. In 1871, the first of two clubs—much like the Krewes in New Orleans—organized and continued the Mardi Gras in Texas experience with extravagant night parades and balls. The Galveston Mardi Gras remained in full swing until the 1880s, when the cost of the parades became too expensive. Although the celebrations were also put on hold during the First and Second World Wars, the city stayed focused on keeping its carnival spirit alive and today has one of the best US Mardi Gras celebrations.
Mardi Gras Parade
For many years, Galveston Mardi Gras remained a small event until the inception of the Grand Night Parade in 1985 by George and Cynthia Mitchell. With the increase of visitors to Galveston and the increase in crowd participation, attendance for this Mardi Gras in the US celebration has increased to more than half a million revelers.
The twelve-day festival has twenty participating Krewes and includes parades, balls, sports, and art exhibits. The two oldest Krewes participating in the event are the Krewe of the Knights of Momus established in 1871. Named after Momus, the god of merriment, the all-male krewe served as active participants until 1941 with the advent of World War II. Revived in 1985, the Krewe of Momus hosts the largest of the Mardi Gras parades.
The Mystic Krewe of Aquarius is the second-oldest organization that was revived in 1985 along with the revival of Mardi Gras in Galveston. The Krewe of Aquarius presents the annual Fat Tuesday Parade featuring highly decorated floats from several krewes along with toe tapping music from numerous marching bands.
Galveston Mardi Gras
One of the popular events at the Galveston Mardi Gras is a performance at the Tremont House by the Quaker City String Band noted for their creative costumes and music. The band has been an ongoing participant, since 1931, in the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade and part of the Galveston Mardi Gras since 1985.
A yearly tradition at Galveston is the design and creation of a custom invitation and doubloon by the Mitchell family commemorating the Tremont Houses’ participation in the first ball held at the hotel. At the Tremont House, a collection of Mardi Gras invitations from the mid 1980s is on display.
Entertainment during the twelve days includes numerous parades sponsored by different krewes, local businesses, organizations, and city workers. The festivities also include the coronation of a king and queen, children’s parade, mummers, live music, food, gala parties, fireworks, and costumed balls and pageants.
During Mardi Gras, additional activities include scheduled sports activities including distance walks and runs, games for children, assorted local crafts, dancing, bead tossing, and firework displays. The dates of the event vary from year to year, but they begin twelve days before the actual date of Mardi Gras and the subsequent start of Lent.
Image: fossilmike (flickr)