GALVESTON – The island city is ready to let the good times roll with its annual Mardi Gras! Galveston celebration. Over the next two weekends, an expected 300,000 visitors will enjoy 24 parades, 26 concerts and five masked balls. They’re expected to throw – and catch—more than 3 million beads.
Mardi Gras! Galveston will get started Friday at 7 p.m. with the second annual "Salute to George Mitchell Parade."
New parades in 2012 include the Zaniest Golf Cart Parade, the Gloworama Art Car Parade, the Danny Weber Memorial Fire Truck Parade and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Parade, benefiting the Shriners Hospitals.
The American Music Award’s Sprint New Artist of the Year, Hot Chelle Rae, will keep the party going Saturday with a 10 p.m. concert at Saengerfest Park at 23rd and Strand.
On Sunday, Feb. 12, Mardi Gras! will transform into Family Gras! for one special day. Family Gras! is set to host kid-friendly events throughout the day. Presented by Moody National Bank, Family Gras! will open their gates at 11 a.m. featuring two parades, live entertainment and grant free admission to the public. Donations will be taken at the gate to benefit the Sunshine Kids and Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Beachfront festivities this year include a children’s parade, pet parade, a Battle of the Bands, fireworks and several additional parades hosted by the island’s largest and oldest krewes.
With the revival of a ticketed entertainment district, the 2011 event saw an increased attendance and a 50 percent drop in police calls, making it one of the largest and safest Mardi Gras events on record.
Mardi Gras, the traditional festival of feasting and merrymaking that precedes the season of Lent, was first publicly observed on Galveston Island in 1867. Following a sabbatical imposed in 1941 by war and challenging times, Mardi Gras! Galveston was revived in 1985 by Galveston-born preservationist and developer George P. Mitchell.
The annual event in Galveston is the nation’s third largest Mardi Gras celebration.