2012 will mark the 101st Mardi Gras! Galveston celebration, and this year’s festivities are scheduled to be bigger and better than ever. This year, Mardi Gras! Galveston will feature 26 concerts, 24 parades, 19 balcony parties, and five fancy dress masked balls, all taking place between Feb. 10-21. Due to last year’s revival of a ticketed entertainment district, last year’s event saw increased attendance and a 50 percent drop in police calls, making it one of the largest and safest Mardi Gras events on record. The 2012 event will be larger still, with over 300,000 people anticipated to be in attendance—read on to find out why you and your family should be among them!
The AMA’s New Artist of the Year, Hot Chelle Rae, will be headlining a series of concerts in Galveston’s Entertainment District. The Nashville pop-rock quartet exploded onto the scene this summer with the catchy, tongue-in-cheek single “Tonight, Tonight,” which hit the Billboard Top 10 in July and has since been certified double platinum. They will be joined by the Austin-based British-American rockers Electric Touch and new country favorites The Josh Abbott Band, among many others. Advance tickets for admission to the Entertainment District, where most concerts will be held, are now available online and may be purchased at www.mardigrasgalveston.com.
In addition to the parades added to the festivities in recent years, Galvestonians’ favorite parade traditions will continue, including:
- The Children’s Parade, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, 2pm at 2700 Seawall Blvd. Each year, Firefighters Local 571 hosts a parade dedicated to the families and children of Galveston. The 2011 parade marches on with costumed kids and decorated floats.
- Krewe of Barkus & Meoux Parade, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, 1pm at 2700 Seawall Blvd. This parade welcomes pets of all sizes, shapes, and species (costumes optional). There will be a pre-parade costume contest, with the winners making up the Royal Court.
- Knights of Momus Grand Night Parade, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012, 6:30pm in the Strand Historic District. Mardi Gras! Galveston ’s largest parade will feature floats, marching bands, dignitaries, bead throwing, and more.
- Mystic Krewe of Aquarius “Fat Tuesday” Parade, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012, 6:30pm in Downtown Galveston. The Fat Tuesday Parade is rolling for its 17th year! This lighted parade will feature Aquarius floats and the Krewes of Gambrinus, Thalasar, Bacchus, Babalu, Boudreaux, DuLac, and ZKrewe. This is the final show before the curtain is drawn on Mardi Gras 2012—don’t miss its beads, floats, marching bands, and fun!
The first of Mardi Gras! Galveston 2012’s 24 parades will be the second annual “Salute to George Mitchell Parade,” which honors award recipients Doug and Joan McLeod. Parade will be held at 7pm on Feb. 10. Additional new parades include:
- The Zaniest Golf Cart Parade, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, 1pm in the Strand Historic District. It’s just what it sounds like—come watch as decorated golf carts roll merrily through the Strand’s cobblestone streets. Free Entertainment District entry to all participants of the parade. Each advance ticket purchased to the Mardi Gras entertainment district for 2/10 or 2/11 receives one entry to win the Official Mardi Gras! Galveston Golf Cart which will lead the Zaniest Golf Cart Parade. Purchase deadline is Feb. 1, 2012. Winner will be announced Feb. 4, 2012.
- The Gloworama Art Car Parade, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, 8pm in the Strand Historic District. Each year, the streets of Galveston are transformed into a whimsical palette of color as the Art Cars return to Mardi Gras! Galveston. The yearly parade features over 30 fun, wacky Art Cars cruising down the Strand—only this year, once the sun sets, the Art Cars will turn the lights on with their Gloworama parade. The Strand will be illuminated as Gloworama rocks downtown in their inaugural parade. Contact Parade Coordinator Charlie Olsen at [email protected] to learn how to enter your Art Car!
- The Danny Weber Memorial Fire Truck Parade, Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, 9pm in the Strand Historic District. Danny Weber, Sr., was a lifelong Galvestonian who spent over 30 years in the Galveston Fire Department as he worked his way through the ranks, eventually becoming Fire Chief. After he retired, still wishing to serve the community he loved, he ran for City Council, serving three terms as the District 5 Representative. Danny was a devoted family man and a good friend to all who knew him. This parade is dedicated to Danny because of his love for his community, his fire department, and Mardi Gras.
- The Shriners Hospitals for Children Parade, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, 3pm in the Strand Historic District. Patients, families, and friends of Shriners Hospital for Children will become a part of Mardi Gras! Galveston with this new parade benefiting Shriners Hospitals. This parade is part of “Family Gras 2012,” a day of family-friendly Mardi Gras events scheduled for Feb. 12. See below for details on other Family Gras events!
There will also be new faces among the parade floats, as the public begin to participate in “Build Your Own Krewe,” purchasing space in new processions such as the Houston Chronicle 2012 Parade. Visit galveston.com/mardigras/ to learn more about participating in or buying tickets for these events.
On Sunday, Feb. 12, the Entertainment District will be free to the public for Family Gras, presented by Moody National Bank. Donations will be taken at the gate to benefit the Sunshine Kids, an organization that provides activities for children with cancer, and Shriners Hospital for Children. Families are encouraged to come down for parades, live music, vendors and more! Events include The Shriners Hospitals for Children Parade (see above) and The Sunshine Kids Parade, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, 1pm in the Strand Historic District. Bring out the entire family for a day full of Sunshine! The Sunshine Kids Parade will begin at 1:00pm, led by the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Participate in Setting a New World Record
As if all of that weren’t enough, families can participate in setting a new world record with the Uptown Funky Umbrella Brigade! During the 2011 Uptown Funky Umbrella Brigade Parade, more than 500 participants performed the Hokey Pokey to claim the title of largest umbrella dance in the Guinness Book of World Records. With a pending challenge posed by another country, the 2012 Uptown Funky Umbrella Brigade will need to increase its presence to hold the reigning title. Join the brigade at 20th Street between Mechanic & Strand on Feb. 10 at 8:30pm to dance and follow the parade as it marches throughout the district. All participants with a decorated umbrella will receive free entry into the Entertainment District!
A Festival with a Past
Mardi Gras, the traditional festival of celebration, feasting, and whimsy that precedes the Catholic season of Lent, began its official observation on Galveston Island in 1867. Festivities were suspended for several decades during and after World War II due to economic hardship, but were revived in 1985 by Galvestonian preservationist and developer George P. Mitchell. Today, Mardi Gras! Galveston is the largest Mardi Gras celebration in Texas and the third largest in the nation. The festivities continue to be led by Galvestonians, some of whose families have been participating in the parades for generations. Festivities include exuberant daytime parades and elaborate nighttime spectacles, carnivals, musicians, performers, feasting, dancing, and—of course—millions upon millions of beads! The unique spirit of merriment that captures the Island during these weeks must be seen to be believed. Make a visit with your family this year and start a family tradition that will delight you and yours for years to come!
Hotel availability is limited on the Island during the festivities, and guests should reserve rooms at their earliest convenience. For a complete schedule of events and more information about Mardi Gras! Galveston, visit galveston.com/mardigras/.