let the good times roll
Mardis Gras! Galveston opening weekend kicks of with concerts, parades, and bountiful beads
A perennial draw, Mardis Gras! Galveston is one of the oldest continuous celebrations in the continental United States, starting just 10 years after New Orleans. Naturally, the event is one of main highlights of the island calendar year.
Galveston's massive, always popular event is expected to draw hundreds of thousands this year, many who'll pack the island during carnival season for concerts, parades, balcony parties, elegant balls, and of course, beads from Friday, February 2 through Fat Tuesday, February 13.
The fun runs from The Strand to Seawall Boulevard and parts in between; those planning their trip can check out this handy map. To up the ante, the popular “Golden Bead” contest is back; lucky fans who manage to grab a golden bead will be treated exclusive prizes. Read more here.
Here’s what’s happening across the opening three-day weekend, from Friday, February 2 through Sunday, February 4.
Friday – Umbrellas and Hayden Baker
Parades are the soul of Mardis Gras, and few do it better on the island than the Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade. The group is known for their rainbow of meticulously decorated umbrellas that weave through the streets, sometimes breaking into “The Hokey Pokey.”
Thousands pack the streets Friday for the opening night Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade. Photo courtesy of Mardi Gras! Galveston
Show off your best umbrella for fun — and free admission.Photo courtesy of Mardi Gras! Galveston
It’s also one of the few parades people can join free of charge, provided they bring their own decorated umbrella, of course. This year’s parade honors the memory of Mary Pegler, a Galveston night-life entrepreneur and philanthropist who filled many dance floors and raised money for numerous good causes.
Other parades include the Party Gras! Procession, the George P. Mitchell Mardi Gras Award Honoree Parade, and the Mardi Gras! Galveston Parade with Grand Marshal Trey from the Fe.
On the Corona Extra Stage at the Tremont House (2300 Strand), there will be several concerts. In addition to Mid Life Crisis and The Line Up, country star Hayden Baker will take the headline spot at 10 p.m. Baker started out his career doing covers and how-to tutorials on YouTube before being discovered by country superstar Brad Paisely. Since then, he has been a rising star on the country scene.
Hayden Baker performs Friday.Photo via Hayden Baker/Facebook
For those who wants a quieter experience during the day before the party gets rolling, historical sites like Moody Mansion and the Trinity Episcopal Cemetery are running tours while the sun is up.
Saturday – Golf Carts, 5K, and Gin Blossoms
Saturday is the big show! Several more themed parades are set to wow visitors, including the Mystic Krewe of Aquarius. Galveston’s second-oldest krewe, it features a whopping 12 flats, 15 marching bands, and walking units and more. When it comes to the quintessential Mardis Gras parade experience, accept no substitutes.
The Mystic Krewe of Aquarius is Galveston’s second-oldest krewe.Photo courtesy of Mardi Gras! Galveston
Earlier in the day is the Jolly Jester Jaunt, a 5k marathon with a Mardis Gras flair. Not only is it a fun way to get some exercise, participants will receive passes to balcony parties, concerts, and drinks afterwards. It’s one of the best ways to get right in the thick of the celebrations.
Or if walking isn’t your speed, how about the Zaniest Golf Cart Parade? Locals outfit their carts with a wild collection of decorations.
Music-wise, the night belongs to the Gin Blossoms. One of the 1990s’ best alt-rock acts, they had major hits with “Hey Jealousy” and “Til I Hear it From You.” Now on the nostalgia circuit but still releasing records, the band’s southwestern sound mixes well with the frontier nature of Texas Mardis Gras.
Photo via Gin Blossoms/Facebook
Sunday – All Things Latin at Fiesta Gras!
Mardis Gras’s roots are in Carnival, which exploded in popularity in Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s only fitting that Mardis Gras! Galveston have a day-long celebration of Latin America, which is the theme for Sunday’s events — dubbed Fiesta Gras!
The afternoon opens with the Univision Houston Parade, a massive collection of various Hispanic floats, bands, and dance troupes. It continues with the Los Locos Vaqueros & Jeeps Parade.
Photo via Karina Gonzalez/Instagram/Jeff Busby
The Grand Marshal is Houston Ballet principal ballerina Karina Gonzalez. The Venezuela-born dancer has starred in productions like Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella, Andre Prokovsy’s The Great Gatsby, and Justin Peck's Reflections.
Music-wise, Sunday caps off with the Duelo. The norteño band from Roma mixes traditional Mexican music with a more dance-ready, romantic style that is sure to get people swaying. They’re sure to play their hit “Desde Hoy,” a slow jam with an incredible accordion line that is an instant earworm.
For more information, schedules, and tickets, visit the official Mardi Gras! Galveston site.