Mardi Gras off to a light but hopeful start

Published 7:11 pm Thursday, February 8, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


There was plenty of room for fun and growth in downtown Port Arthur Thursday as the 2018 Mardi Gras festivities kicked off.

Vendors were setting up their stalls; bands were performing setup; and officers patrolled the streets in preparation for the crowds that normally attend the annual festival. Still, as the gates opened and ticket booths charged a $1 special for admission, there was a less than capacity crowd coming in.

Jackee Follins of Port Arthur said it was because many people thought there was no Mardi Gras event at all that night.

“There was no parade; so, people thought that meant there was no event either,” she said.

Organizers said there would be no Thursday parade due to lingering effects from Harvey.

To help compensate for that, the organizers said Thursday night admission would only be $1 to help out families who had suffered losses after the flood. Follins said she was grateful for that gesture.

“Any time you have something you don’t have to pay for it is a blessing,” Follins said.

However, a few vendors were more optimistic about Thursday night’s opening.

“This is pretty normal for Thursday,” Leia Copeland, operator of the Henna Tattoos and Face Paint tent, said. “It’ll be later on you’ll have the bigger crowds show up.”

Copeland explained that on Thursday night at 5 p.m., one had to take into account things like people just getting off work, picking up their kids and dealing with traffic.

A little ways down the block, Adrian Sanchez was setting up his tent with a large selection of toys for display. He agreed with Copeland’s statement and didn’t seem worried at all about the low turnout so far.

“This is normal. You have parents who are just getting off work now.”

He said he’d expect more people as the night went on. Though both he and Copeland said Friday and Saturday were when the big turnouts would be.

With Thursday night marking the first Mardi Gras after Harvey, Copeland said the festival could hold a special significance for people.

“We did the Rice Festival in Winnie in October,” Copeland, a New Braunfels resident, said. “It was our best year yet. People were so happy to get out and get that burden off their minds.”

Copeland suggested the same could be said about this year’s Mardi Gras, where people could take the time to forget about their Harvey-related woes if only for a few nights.

“That will probably be the mindset,” Copeland said. “This is a way to take their minds off of it.”

Port Arthur native and regular Mardi Gras attendee Donna Boudreaux seemed to agree.

“This will maybe get people to forget about some of it,” she said. “They could have fun instead of worrying about contractors and insurance and that kind of stuff.”

With a cheery smile, Copeland said Port Arthur’s Mardi Gras was the one to bring the family to as well.

“I think this Mardi Gras is the most family-friendly, as far as having kids and having a place to bring them to,” Copeland said. “There are a lot of things for them to do here. People ask me which Mardi Gras they should go to; and, I say this is the one to bring your kids to.”