Residents, merchants upset about Mardi Gras Galveston fees

January 30, 2013 3:56:25 PM PST
It's time again to let the good times roll as Galveston kicks off its annual Mardi Gras Galveston celebration this weekend.

This year's celebration -- which kicks off Friday and runs through February 12 -- is scheduled to be the biggest Mardi Gras Galveston celebration yet with 38 concerts, 24 parades, 20 balcony parties and five elegant masked balls.

Workers are getting ready for big crowds at this year's Mardi Gras celebration. Local hotels are nearly sold out.

You can enjoy parades and parties for free along Galveston's seawall, but if you want to go to the heart of the party in the city's entertainment district, it'll cost you $17 a day -- $10 if you got your tickets early.

"I think it should be free. People come to have a good time and all the shops on The Strand, if you go in those, nothing in those is free," Galveston resident Terri Wicker said. "So at least it should be free to walk up and down the street."

Some businesses on The Strand, like Crow's Southwest Cantina, don't like the price either.

"The local merchants, they're losing out because people are having to pay to be on a public street," said Dixie Clearly with Crow's.

Crow's is located in the 2400 block of Strand Rear Street. Mardi Gras organizers plan on extending a fence to the end of the street so people won't be able to sneak into The Strand without paying.

Employees at Crow's are passing out a petition, hoping to keep the street open.

"One promoter is making all the decisions for everybody out here and personally I don't think it's right," Clearly said.

That promoter is Mike Dean. This is his third year running Galveston's Mardi Gras here in the entertainment district, and he says he's not making a profit.

"A free Mardi Gras is simply unsustainable. The bands don't work for free. The staging doesn't come for free. The extra security and extra trash cleanup," Dean said. "It's just unsustainable as a free event."

"Is this is absolute cheapest you think you can run this?" we asked.

"I think so," he said.

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Events this weekend will feature several concerts and parades, including Friday's annual "Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade," in which organizers earned a world record for the largest choreographed umbrella dance last year. Anyone who brings a decorated umbrella to participate in the brigade will receive free admission to the downtown Mardi Gras entertainment district.

On Saturday, the platinum rock group Tonic will headline Mardi Gras performances. Tonic will perform at 7:30pm in Saengerfest Park, located at the corner of Strand and 23rd streets. Concerts are free to attend with admission to the Mardi Gras entertainment district.

Then on Sunday, Family Gras at Mardi Gras Galveston features the annual Sunshine Kids Parade, Shriners Hospitals for Children Parade, a 1K Fun Run/Walk and live entertainment. Admission to the entertainment district on this day is free. Donations will be accepted at the gate for the Sunshine Kids and Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Mardi Gras was first publicly observed on Galveston Island in 1867.

For more information about parades, schedules and entertainment, please visit MardiGrasGalveston.com.

ABC13 will broadcast the Mardi Gras Galveston Momus Grande Night parade on Saturday, February 9 at 10:35pm.
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