, Port Arthur, Texas

February 9, 2013

People flock to downtown Port Arthur for Mardi Gras

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Kathryn Monk has been attending Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas for the past 21 years — since its inception.

“To me, it’s what’s keeping Port Arthur alive,” she said.

Indeed, people lined the streets of downtown Port Arthur in droves Saturday afternoon, playing games, eating fried foods and drinking from disposable containers in front of the faded facades of vacant buildings — an incongruous sight not seen at any other time of year.

Monk makes her way along Procter Street every year — rain or shine. The Port Arthur resident came out last year to celebrate the season, despite the several inches of rainfall that drenched Southeast Texas.

For Monk, keeping her Mardi Gras spirit alive means donning an assortment of elaborate, multicolored hats — each as unique as the next. Every year, she purchases a hat from Alice Thibeault, whose sugar skull-inspired mask appeared in a Budweiser commercial that debuted during Super Bowl XLVII.

At Thibeault’s shop, Originals by Alice in Nederland, Monk picked up a hat completely covered by blue, purple and black feathers and sequins. Some of the feathers were taller than she was.

“I love them,” Monk said. “You should come to Mardi Gras with a hat.”

But Monk was not the only one sporting a hat Saturday. Jerry Brown and his Capuchin monkey, Django, both wore different styles of top hats as they strolled along Procter Street, drawing attention wherever they went.

Do not get it mixed though, Brown said, for his monkey was not named after the recently released Quentin Tarantino film, “Django Unchained.”

Django (the monkey) is 21 years old. She enjoys chewing on the ends of pens and listening to Brown play the accordion. But she did get a little jealous when Brown performed a trick that bended and broke a metal fork in half.

“Is it metal, or is it mental?” Brown asked as the fork seemed to melt in his hands.

This was Brown’s and Django’s sixth year at Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas. They make the trip every year from Lancaster, Pa., to Port Arthur, stopping off in Georgetown to visit Brown’s 91-year-old mother. It’s a tradition.

“They like me, and I like them,” Brown said.

Django wasn’t the only Capuchin monkey at Mardi Gras. Norris and his monkey, Jo Jo, returned to Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas this year after enjoying their time at last year’s celebration so much.

Norris and Jo Jo traveled from Ingleside, near Aransas Pass, to Port Arthur to attend Mardi Gras for the second consecutive year. People could get their pictures taken with Jo Jo for a dollar, and the monkey would either pose or perch on people’s shoulders in his red suit.

If you’re not into monkeys, you could get your picture taken with Oliver, an African Watusi, for $10. The Watusi are a breed of cattle native to Africa that have distinctive horns capable of growing up to 8 feet long from tip to tip, according to Oliver’s sign.

There was face-painting, cartoon-drawing and fire-juggling. Games, music and rides for all ages and sizes lined the typically empty lots along Procter Street while the deeply detailed and brightly painted floats waited along the seawall for the parade to start.

Sunday’s festivities begin at 2 p.m. with the Munchkin Parade, which starts at Atlanta Avenue and ends at Austin Avenue. Gregg Martinez and the Delta Kings perform at 3 p.m., and C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band go on at 6:20 p.m.

The final parade, the Richard Industrial Group Motor Parade, begins at 4 p.m. at the Rosehill Park, concluding its march at Houston Avenue.


twitter: @broocrum