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Most important: Mardi Gras’ future


Is it a dalliance, this conversation between Mardi Gras Southeast Texas and the city of Port Neches? A “wouldn’t-it-be-loverly?” fantasy about high-end patrons in a bedroom community catching beads and spending money? Organizers meet the City Council there on Thursday.

Is it an “I-double-dare-you” moment, when Mardi Gras organizers, obviously chagrined by what some perceive as shabby treatment of the organization by the Port Arthur City Council, answer back?

After all, the City Council promised answers to the organization when it sought last summer and in the fall an “event zone” to keep independent street merchants away from the Mardi Gras festival gates. Councilmembers never answered, organizers said.

Or is it a case of the organization simply seeking more promising pastures, a place where Mardi Gras is fully appreciated and where the organization works in closer partnership with the host city?

It’s likely the last. Mardi Gras Southeast Texas organizers have 27 years of volunteer efforts invested in their product. They’ve given up a lot personally to build their brand.

They’ve got the community’s best interests in mind, too, as they weigh the direction for their event. After all, their profits go mostly to those original investors who launched the Mardi Gras movement here, mostly charitable organizations and churches.

Port Arthur may lose Mardi Gras — if not to Port Neches, perhaps to Nederland or the airport or — Heaven forbid, Beaumont.

One nettlesome issue in Port Arthur is that independent merchants siphon off profits from the festival, setting up camp outside the gates and selling their wares to people who pay to enter the ticketed area. Mardi Gras organizers have asked the City Council to push them back, away from the crowd that Mardi Gras draws to the festival, to ensure profitability of the four-day event for them and for vendors inside the gates. That request proved controversial among councilmembers, but if this event — it’s a signature event for Port Arthur — moves outside the city limits, those same councilmembers may have to answer for it in an election year.

There’s no guarantee the Port Neches City Council would grant that event zone request to the Mardi Gras organizers, or that they would welcome the event to their city. But someone will surely roll out a welcome mat to this organization. Mardi Gras is a joyous occasion, and Mardi Gras Southeast Texas has made it so for people here.

Would the airport area be a better parade route, a neutral zone that might draw Beaumont patrons in addition to those from Greater Port Arthur? Would Boston Avenue?

There may be time to discuss Mardi Gras’ future, but not a lot. Commitments must be made, schedules planned. Most important is this — that Mardi Gras Southeast Texas have a future.