Rain, outside vendors affected Mardi Gras attendance

Published 5:52 pm Monday, February 12, 2018

The official numbers aren’t in yet but organizers with Mardi Gras Southeast Texas know attendance was down this year due to inclement weather.

Still, even with sometimes heavy showers, most parades went on as planned with the exception of the delay of the Royalty March, which was set for Saturday afternoon, president Laura Childress said.

Royalty was able to get in on the action as they led the Umbrella Brigade Parade on a cold and windy Sunday afternoon.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We fully expected this. We knew the hurricane (flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey) would factor in to some degree. Port Arthur is not back 100 percent and then the rain on top of that,” Childress said.

Barbara Lewis and Kayla Green attended Sunday afternoon and stopped by a food vendor for some festival goodies.

“Today (Sunday) is our first day (Coming to Mardi Gras this year),” Green said. “We wanted to come out yesterday but it was raining.”

Lewis said they come to Mardi Gras every year and this year they had family members in Port Arthur schools that were in a parade.

Childress said she’s glad all went as scheduled, including the musical acts. She said she is thankful for the folks who braved the weather.

“We want to say thank you to the sponsors and parade participants who sat on the seawall in the rain. They are die-hard fans and we certainly do want to thank them,” she said.

But there’s another issue besides the weather that factors in on the probable loss in attendance — vendors outside the gates.

“Besides the rain there was another big factor — outside vendors who give opportunity to not have to come inside the gates,” she said.

There is some hope for next year’s event, which will take place at the end of February and the beginning of March.

“The season is later next year, which is always a plus for us,” she said. “We can’t control Mother Nature though; it could be better or worse.”

Before any plans are made for the 2019 Mardi Gras celebration, MGSET want to meet with city officials and decision makers and talk to them about the outside vendors and how that affects Mardi Gras.

“There had always been outside vendors but that number is growing. They are stationed outside the parade route, not contributing,” she said. “I understand free enterprise and they are making money but we do the advertising, pay for the Port-A-Potties, the insurance, the security. They set up for four days and go home with the profits and we don’t have that luxury.”