In April 1990, a casual conversation between two friends launched Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas. After nearly three years of planning and joined by 18 community minded non-profit organizations, the highly successful first event was held in Downtown Port Arthur in February 1993.
It is hailed by many as the catalyst that began a resurgence of downtown Port Arthur. The purposes envisioned by the founders were to benefit the member non-profit groups, to stage a family oriented affair, to promote interaction among diverse ethnic groups, to promote racial harmony and to serve as an economic development project for Southeast Texas.
Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas, Inc. received its non-profit Charter from the State of Texas on February 18, 1992 and the non-profit status was then confirmed by the Internal Revenue Service.
The old J.C. Penney building, originally constructed in the 1920's, was purchased as the carnival event headquarters. A massive cleanup and restoration campaign was conducted, mostly by volunteers who donated time and skills.
The local Texas Artists Museum group created magnificent artwork which adorns the interior of the refurbished building. This sturdy and charming landmark was renamed the Aurora Building commemorating the first settlement of Port Arthur in 1837. The Aurora Building at carnival time is the host to several arts & craft vendors from across the country. It also is the home of the Aurora Cafe, which is operated by volunteers during carnival weekend.
In 1993, the Retail Merchants Association constructed a 1600 square foot facility. The building serves as the Mardi Gras operations center and also houses the Mardi Gras Store. A full line retail outlet of Mardi Gras goods and products staffed by friendly volunteers. If you're looking for that special Mardi Gras trinket don't miss checking the Mardi Gras Store.
The Majestic Krewe of Aurora organized simultaneously with Mardi Gras Southeast Texas under the sponsorship of the corporation was the founding Krewe of Southeast Texas.
Mardi Gras Southeast Texas is a family friendly festival. Carnival Weekend has many attractions and activities for the whole family. Come share the fun and help support Southeast Texas !
What is Mardi Gras? Mardi Gras, "Fat Tuesday" translated from French, is the last chance before Lent for revelry and almost anything goes. It can occur on any Tuesday between February 3 through March 9. This is due to the Gregorian calendar designed by the Catholic Church which sets a fixed date for Christmas and movable dates for other holidays. Easter is set on any Sunday from March 23 to April 25, and its exact date is set to coincide with the first Sunday after the full moon that follows the Spring Equinox. Mardi Gras is set 46 days prior to Easter--the 40 days of Lent plus 6 Sundays.
A little history-- In the late 1700's pre-Lenten balls and parties were held in New Orleans. Under French rule, masked balls flourished, but were banned later when Louisiana was under Spanish rule. After becoming an American city, New Orleans' fun loving Creole populations convinced the governor to allow Mardi Gras balls in 1823. In 1837, a costumed group of revelers walked in the first documented parade. Due to the violence of several masked paraders during this period, Mardi Gras once again faced prohibition. Six New Orleanians formed the first "krewe" Comus, and proved Mardi Gras could be a fun and beautiful celebration. Comus began several traditions such as forming a secret Carnival society, choosing a namesake from mythology, having themed parades with floats and costumed maskers, and having a ball. Rex began in 1872 and has been known as the "King of Mardi Gras" ever since. This group honored visiting Russian royalty; organized the first daytime parade; chose the colors of Mardi Gras (purple, green, and gold); the musical theme, ("If Ever I Cease to Love"); and produced its first flag. In 1916, the first black krewe, Zulu, came upon the scene. The first Zulu king poked fun at Rex and ruled with a banana scepter. Mardi Gras survived the war year, the Great Depression, and other struggles. It is celebrated throughout the entire Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle to Texas.
The Carnival Season (from the Latin Carnivale meaning farewell to flesh) is the season of merriment which begins with Epiphany of January 6 (the Twelfth Nigh) and ends at Midnight on Mardi Gras. The season of feasting ends when the season of fasting begins with Ash Wednesday.
Krewes-- Parades are organized by social clubs known as Krewes and most take their name from historical or mythological figures. Comus and Momus are the two oldest krewes in New Orleans. Most krewes parade and hold Carnival balls. Usually a king and queen are selected to reign over the masked tableaux ball. This royalty usually rides on their own floats, but don't usually throw trinkets. They may be accompanied by their courts on floats, in convertibles or masked dukes on horseback.
Parades-- Although all parades are fun, they are not created equal. Parades range from kids on bikes and little red wagon floats in area neighborhoods to the elaborate theme parades with floats that can hold up to 200 riders. Most parades have marching bands, jazz bands or flambeaux carriers interspersed with the floats. The best known theme parades are Babylon, Hermes, Bacchus, Endymion, Rex and Orpheus. Some of these groups are known as "super-krewew" and have celebrity grand marshals. Flambeaux carriers light the way during night parades with propane held torches. In the past, flambeaux carriers were traditionally white robed black men. If you are lucky enough, you may get to see a Mardi Gras Indian. These black men portray American Indians with elaborate beaded and feathered costumes.
King Cakes-- are an oval, sugared cinnamon coffee cake that contains a plastic baby inside. The person who "finds" the baby is crowned "king" and provides the next cake. Originally, a bean was baked inside the cake, but has been replaced by the plastic baby. King cakes are available beginning January 6, officially designated as the day the wise men "found" the baby Jesus.
Colors of Mardi Gras-- Everything is purple, green and gold. Purple represents justice, green stands for faith and gold signifies power. These colors have so much prominence in Louisiana, that LSU chose purple and gold as its colors and Tulane University chose green.
Doubloons-- are aluminum coins which can be minted in a variety of colors. Rex introduced the first doubloon in 1960 which had the krewes insignia on one side and the parades theme on the reverse. These coins have become quite valuable as collector items.