This is the second year we’ve gone to the Mardi Gras in Galveston. Last year, we were fresh-faced, newly minted ex-pats, excited by everything and everyone, on a perpetual holiday. We made it to what we thought would be the most kid-friendly event – the Children’s Parade. It was the last parade, on the last day, and was immense fun, but I wonder in retrospect whether that was precisely because we were still shiny and new.
Since I had resolved to embrace life more in 2014, we aimed for an earlier parade this year. In usual form, leaving the house involved several false starts, two un-lockings and re-enterings to retrieve more weather-wise clothing, and at least 3 arguments before we all made it into the car. Life with teenage/pre-teen boys seems to involve a lot of battles over the mundane. Now, we live about an hour and a half from Galveston, so making it to the first parade which set off at 12 noon, would have involved leaving the house by 10.30. Given that we didn’t make out of the house till 11, getting to the parade on time was out of the question. So off to brunch we went, then settled into the car for the boring drive there.
Once we got there, it didn’t take too much searching to find a free parking space (it’s worth looking, or you could end up paying anything between $10 and $20 for parking). Then off we went to pay our way in, find a spot, and grab ourselves some lurid, shiny plastic necklaces. Yes, that’s the treasure that Mardi Gras goers seek. Cheap plastic necklaces that you could buy in bags of 100 for $5, but that you would break limbs for (yours or someone else’s, it’s all fair game) during Mardi Gras.
Even before the parade begins, and beads are thrown from passing floats, there are beads being flung, and collected from the tops of buildings. Everyone gets in on the act – the most sedate of grandmothers to the shyest toddler.
Those who have come to gawk, in turn become the main attraction, as they promenade down the fenced off streets. And there is certainly much to gawk at during Mardi Gras. Last year’s Children’s Parade hadn’t adequately prepared me for the visual feast of this year.
And then the parade began. It’s a fun procession of local schools and businesses. The marching bands ham it up, the cheerleaders writhe and wriggle, the floats amble by with beads and beer, people cheer and chant. The marines march through, the crowd grows sedate, remembering those lost perhaps, everyone claps, then there’s a honk and a whistle as the cast from South Pacific swan past.
It’s fun, salacious, and definitely not for the prudish or very young, as one tut-tutting grandmother next to me made clear. Go with an open mind, a playful spirit, and arms ready to catch a plethora of beads.