Streets lined on both sides with fun loving crowds having a good time; the sound of music (rock, country, reggae, and more) coming from all directions; a wide variety of colorful and interesting costumes parading up and down the street; lots of beer and Hurricanes and Margaritas; the smell of some delicious food making my tummy growl; cheering as bands and colorful floats parade down the street; stands of beads flying everywhere from balconies loaded with people, tossed from all of the floats as they pass by, from fans tossing them back and forth across the street and up to the balconies, and even from the parade police; and almost everyone with a smile of their face and a single strand of beads to several hundred strands of beads strung around their neck - it's Marti Gras in Galveston! What a blast!
For our winter vacation (read our article on a winter vacation in Galveston) we jumped in the motorhome and headed to Galveston for 10 days to enjoy Mardi Gras and lots of other fun activities in Galveston. Within minutes after parking the RV at Stella Mare RV Resort we were in the Jeep headed to the Strand to enjoy Mardi Gras.
The main activity for a majority of the Marti Gras fans seems to be collecting as many strands of beads as you can. For me, Mardi Gras is about people watching, the cold beer, music, and a variety of food! People line the street yelling with their hands in the air trying to get the people on the floats or on the balconies to throw them some beads. Strands of beads must be some type of Mardi Gras status symbol - the more beads and the bigger they are, the more respect you earn. For some it's just the thrill of trying to snag as many flying beads as you can!
After about an hour of this, my wife had at least 50 strands around her neck, and when I asked her when she would stop eagerly trying to grab all the beads she could, her response was "it's the competition and the sport of it and it's addictive! I can't stop." Once her neck was loaded with strands of beads she started to set some bead collection rules:
Even with all those rules in place her waving arms and yelling resulted in another 100 strands of beads around her neck within a couple hours. She's only 5'2' but I swear she was jumping higher than Michael Jordan with her arms outstretched to snag those flying beads out of the air! When we got back to the RV, she put a quarter of the beads around our grandkids bear that loves to camp with us - doesn't he look a little disgusted with having to wear all those silly beads?
But what are we going to do with all the rest of the beads - the grandkids still have hundreds of strands from a previous Mardi Gras. When she's not looking I'll steal a couple strands and bury them in the trash until they all slowly disappear or I could take them all to a Mardi Gras store and promise to buy her a diamond ring with the proceeds!
We enjoyed watching a lot of parades with uniquely decorated floats and bands and colorful costumes. The Krewe of Barkus & Meoux Parade on Sunday with an intriguing mix of dogs, cats, and even ferrets dressed up for Mardi Gras may have been the funniest. Some of the floats had well done and interesting figurines on the front of the float
and others had colorful decorations, and all of them were loaded with people tossing strings of beads. Between floats were marching bands from several different areas around Galveston.
As interesting as the parades were the fans were just as intriguing and they were decked out to have a good time and enjoy the festivities in costume.
Monday was a day of rest for all of us but Tuesday was the final Mardi Gras Parade - the Mystic Krewe of Aquarius 21st Annual Fat Tuesday Parade. We found a bar along the parade route, ordered some wings and beer, and waited for the parade to pass by. And two hours later the wife was again loaded with beads!
The extravagance found in Texas’ largest Mardi Gras celebration includes more than 3 million beads thrown (the majority of which seemed to be around my wife's neck), elaborate parades, headliner performances, family events, dining on a wide variety of cuisines, 5 and 10K runs, lots of balcony parties as well as formal dances, and other festivities. If you've never been to Mardi Gras it's fun for everyone from 4 to 94. Come in costume to make it more authentic! The most fun place to watch the Galveston Mardi Gras parades and people watch, listen to the bands, enjoy the crowds, have some drinks, and devour some food is in the Strand. There is an entrance fee to get into this area and if you've got a little extra cash consider buying a ticket to one of the Strand Balcony parties or one of the fancy gala Mardi Gras parties. Parking can be a challenge if you don't get there early - be prepared to walk or find a parking spot and bike the rest of the way. Some of the parades start on the Seawall and meander down several crowd lined streets and end up at the Strand - tons of fans line both sides of the street with coolers, snacks, and lawn chairs at no charge. Sunday of the last week, there is no entrance fee to the Strand. See you there next year.