Saturday, January 29, 2005

Mardis Gras -- then & now

Before Mardis Gras Galveston became a huge, money-losing event in 1985 featuring high society tuxedoed balls and elaborate parades, it was something decidedly less formal.

This is what happened.

Word filtered out that some people were going to celebrate Mardis Gras, since Galveston back in the old days used to have such a celebration, so everyone meet down on The Strand tonight, and bring your own booze.

A variety of people showed: Guys who were renovating an old ship called the Elissa, some employees of the Galveston Historical Foundation, employees and hangers-on at the now-defunct alternative paper called In-Between Magazine, an assortment of young people leasing or renovating homes in the East End Historical District or renting rather spartan spaces in a few of the old buildings that someday were going to turned into high-dollar loft spaces. Plus, assorted boho others. Mighta been 30 people in all, maybe a little more.

Some people brought some torches that were lit, some wore funny hats, a few wore masks and everyone drank a lot, in the street. Aye, 'twas a motley crew.

Back then, it was probably 1980, maybe '81, or hell, maybe '82, there wasn't enough tourist traffic, or touristy things to do downtown, to pose any problems for a bunch of locals standing around in the street drinking and laughing and acting the fool.

And that was it. That was Mardis Gras.

Somehow, someway, an exclamation point was tacked onto the end of it.

Mardis Gras! became a huge, government-sponsored extravaganza, with live TV coverage and organized krewes and big-name entertainment. Bully for Galveston. I even went to it once. But the first Mardis Gras was kinda cooler, looking back on it.

Big it has indeed become. Oddly, big doesn't mean profitable.

Last year's Mardi Gras resulted in about $400,000 in losses for the Galveston Park Board, which organizes the event. It was the third straight year of losses...this year's budget is $1.3 million, down $500,000 from last year...the (Galveston parks) board is only projecting a profit of $10,000.
[Hou.Chron.]
Those who go to Galveston's current day Mardis Gras seem to enjoy themselves, and you ladies really, really don't have to bare your breasts to get free beads, although that isn't necessarily frowned upon, either.
[Galv. Co. Daily News]

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

interesting.