Not a done deal yet: Crowd fills PN City Hall for Mardi Gras talk

PORT NECHES — Traffic issues and alcohol use topped the list of concerns Port Neches’ residents gave as reasons to oppose bringing Mardi Gras Southeast Texas to their town on Thursday.

Laura Childress, president of Mardi Gras Southeast Texas and Tim Romero, president of the MGSETX board, addressed Port Neches City Council and more than 150 of its residents who packed council chambers and the hallway for talks about possibly using Port Neches Riverfront Park as a venue for the Mardi Gras celebration.

Romero and Childress fielded questions, telling how the organization first noted a downward trend in attendance 10 years ago, and even with lower priced tickets and different musical entertainment, attendance did not increase.

Robyn Brown lives near the park and has come to realize that during the city’s RiverFest celebration traffic is difficult to handle. She can’t have company over during those days, and even with residential passes to get to her home, traffic is outrageous. She said she’s not opposed to Mardi Gras, she just doesn’t want it in the city.

Resident Joe Martin said even with a fence around the festival grounds there still would be crime. There will be alcohol consumption and the possibility of people drinking and driving.

Longtime resident Ronald White who said he once served on the council in the 1970s and 1980s, was one of several who read from a prepared statement. He said he’s in opposition of what he called the Port Arthur Mardi Gras.

“My opinion is that it will have a negative effect on almost everyone,” White said.

Port Neches is a bedroom community and has no major business, no civic center or hospital or nursing home and is limited to one supermarket, he noted.
“We deserve better than to be taken over by Mardi Gras,” he said.

But not all in attendance were in opposition. Several people with two of the Mardi Gras Krewes spoke in favor of the move to Port Neches and some residents were in favor as well.

Paula Primeaux is one of the folks in favor. She has attended Mardi Gras in downtown Port Arthur for years and even camps near the site, saying she feels safe there.

“It’s not all party and drunks,” Primeaux said, adding you don’t have to drink alcohol to go to Mardi Gras. She also noted the city only has one supermarket — Market Basket, and the city needs the tax revenue from the event.

MGSETX just concluded its 27th year in the city of Port Arthur. The event is different than other festivals that are run by chambers of commerce or cities. MGSETX began with 19 nonprofit groups in 1992 that were asked to put up $5,000 in seed money for the original festival. The founders wanted to use downtown Port Arthur to make sure the people of the city could see the parade, attend a great festival with lots of color, music, food, spirits and fun, and that it is family oriented, Romero said.

The event is a major fundraiser for the sponsoring organizations. Childress told the crowd she has no salary and is a volunteer.

No decision was made and the discussion will continue at the April 18 council meeting.

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