Best Mardi Gras Ever

Pitbull and billionaire master of Mardi Gras rock party scene as reality TV cameras roll

Pitbull and billionaire master of Mardi Gras party while cameras roll

San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Pitbull
Pitbull rocks the Galveston Island Convention Center during the San Luis Salute at Galveston Mardi Gras. Photo by Gary Fountain
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, King Frivolous Tom Daly, Queen Jordan Raschke
King Frivolous Tom Daly with Queen Jordan Raschke. Photo by Gary Fountain
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Fertitta family, Michael, Paige, Tilman, Blayne, Blake, Patrick
The Fertitta family — Michael, Paige, Tilman, Blayne, Blake and Patricik. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Lane Craft, Chita Johnson
Lane Craft, Chita Johnson.  Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Michelle Herman, Tom Herman
Michelle Herman, Tom Herman. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly
Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly. Photo by Gary Fountain
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Suresh Khator, Renu Khator
Suresh Khator, Renu Khator. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, George Lugrin and Superheroes
George Lugrin surrounded by superheroes. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Tilman Fertitta, Pitbull
Tilman Fertitta, Pitbull. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Brenda Koch, Amiko Kauderer, Emily Koch
Brenda Koch, Amiko Kauderer, Emily Koch. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Dr. Thomas Blackwell, Michele Blackwell
Dr. Thomas Blackwell, Michele Blackwell. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Jerry Martin, Kevin Gilliard, Frank Billingsley
Jerry Martin, Kevin Gilliard, Frank Billingsley. Photo by Gary Fountain
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, David Callender, Tonya Callender
Dr. David Callender, Tonya Callender. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Carson Miller, Patrick Fertitta
Carson Miller, Patrick Fertitta. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Maria Bush, Neil Bush
Maria Bush, Neil Bush. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Neil Hamil, Diane Lokey Farb
Neal Hamil, Diane Lokey Farb. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, decor
San Luis Salute embraces the 'Gotham' theme. Photo by Shafik I. Rifaat
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Mary Kay Guido, Vic Fertitta, Paulie Gaido
Mary Kay Guido, Vic Fertitta, Paulie Gaido. Photo by Gary Fountain
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Kelli Fertitta, Blayne Fertitta
Kelli Fertitta, Blayne Fertitta. Photo by Dave Rossman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Superheroes
Superhero characters on parade. Photo by Gary Fountain
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Pitbull
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, King Frivolous Tom Daly, Queen Jordan Raschke
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Fertitta family, Michael, Paige, Tilman, Blayne, Blake, Patrick
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Lane Craft, Chita Johnson
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Michelle Herman, Tom Herman
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Suresh Khator, Renu Khator
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, George Lugrin and Superheroes
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Tilman Fertitta, Pitbull
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Brenda Koch, Amiko Kauderer, Emily Koch
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Dr. Thomas Blackwell, Michele Blackwell
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Jerry Martin, Kevin Gilliard, Frank Billingsley
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, David Callender, Tonya Callender
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Carson Miller, Patrick Fertitta
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Maria Bush, Neil Bush
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Neil Hamil, Diane Lokey Farb
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, decor
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Mary Kay Guido, Vic Fertitta, Paulie Gaido
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Kelli Fertitta, Blayne Fertitta
San Luis Salute, Feb. 2016, Superheroes

The reality TV cameras rolled Friday night as Tilman Fertitta, star of CNBC's Billion Dollar Buyer, reigned over the 20th annual San Luis Salute where star entertainer Pitbull rocked the Mardi Gras party scene like nothing before.

"It's been 20 years and believe it or not we try to top it every year," Fertitta told CultureMap. "And once again, thank god, the staff did it. We topped it again."

Indeed, Pitbull and his entourage set the ballroom on fi-yuh!

Following the "Gotham" theme, decor in the Galveston Island Convention Center at the San Luis featured iconic New York features including a Central Park style setting (think 20-foot tall trees), the Brooklyn Bridge, eerie Gotham skyscraper images projected on ballroom walls and dancers dressed as superheroes performing on elevated pods. Aerial artists included a bartender pouring Veuve Cliquot (yes, Veuve for everyone!) from overhead and an exotic violinist swirling above the ballroom.

Soaking in the near-giddy crowd and the dramatic decor created by Richard Flowers and The Events Co., Fertitta noted" It shocks me that we can get 1,700 people in here on a Friday night in Galveston, Texas, and we never sent out an invitation."

The over-the-top, popular event sold out in six hours.

Filming for the TV show, which premieres March 22 at 9 pm, began earlier in the evening during a VIP gathering at Fertitta's yacht, The Boardwalk. While the swank vessel was open for touring, the partying took place in a glass palace hung with crystal chandeliers and adorned with Vegas showgirls.

Back in the ballroom, there was a video message from astronaut Scott Kelly from his perch on the International Space Station. He sent greetings to Fertitta and his wife, Paige Fertitta, who have chaired the gala for two decades, as well as to his brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, and his wife, former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and to his lady love Amiko Kauderer.

"Just last year, I was celebrating Mardi Gras with all of you but tonight I can only send my warmest wishes," Kelly said adding, "Pitbull? Seriously, I go to space for a year and you get Pitbull for Mardi Gras? I love Pitbull!

Even after Pitbull's performance, the partying went on until 1 am with the sounds of the sensational A-Town A-List band.

Joining in the revelry were Fertitta's University of Houston family (he chairs the board), chancellor and president Renu Khator and professor Suresh Khator, UH football coach Tom Herman and wife Michelle and UH athletic director Hunter Yuracheck and wife Jenny.

The evening honored Dr. Thomas Blackwell of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and raised funds for the Jennie Sealy Hospital at UTMB.

Notables were many including dean of the Texas Senate John Whitmire, Maria and Neil Bush, UTMB president Dr. David Callender and wife Tonya, Michael Garfield, Nandita and Michael Berry, Jerry Martin, Dancie and Jim Ware, Doe and Henry Florsheim, and Joy and Vic Fertitta.

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