Mardi Gras Southeast Texas celebrates 20 years

Mardi Gras Southeast Texas celebrates 20 years

Mark your calendars, get out your colorful finery, feathers, and jewels, and plan to party in Port Arthur on Saturday, Feb. 11, through Saturday, Feb. 18, when the Majestic Krewe of Aurora kicks things off with the Grand Ball and ends with the electrifying parade on the 18th. These folks know what they are doing, as well they should, since they have been putting on the ritz and partying heartedly for more than 20 years. You can feel the “Spirit of Mardi Gras” in the air, according to those most involved. It is no little feat to decorate the gigantic floats with color, theme and attractiveness to woo the crowds, purchase all the beads and goodies to be thrown on the parade route, plan the lively stage entertainment, enlist the vendors, and prepare a carnival to thrill the kids.

According to Mardi Gras director of communications Jan Walker and Peggy Simon, Krewe of Aurora Grand Ball captain for its entire 20-year history, the preparation for the next year’s event begins with the close of the current one. “We’ve been doing this a long time now,” said Simon, “and it’s just the most fun you’ll ever have. There’s about a dozen and a half of us who have ridden on the floats, planned the balls, worked on the parade, bought the beads and thoroughly enjoyed every memory of these Mardi Gras events here in Port Arthur. My husband has served as parade captain every year until this one when he has sort of retired and let someone else oversee the big challenge.”

Both Walker and Simon say they could not pull off this huge endeavor without the help of the dedicated fans they have in their corner. “No way,” said Simon. “The faithful volunteers are the heart and soul of Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas. They know their jobs and nothing, and I mean nothing, stops them from doing them with grace and dignity, but they have fun, too.” Simon said just check with Floyd Marceaux or Laura Childress, captain and president of Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas, to hear the same thing. “They know how valuable our volunteers are.”

Simon said there were 18 members or founding organizations when Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas was first planned. “We thought about it and wondered if we could pull it off, and we got busy and planned the first one. Back in those days, we did not have our own floats, and so we had to borrow them from Galveston and New Orleans, both of which had been having successful events. The ones that came from New Orleans were driven over to us, but the ones that came from Galveston had to be shipped on great huge barges and they arrived at the port. Our people helped offload the big floats and the port folks have always been wonderful in letting us use their space and store the floats there.”

“This year’s is especially exciting because we celebrate 20 years of very successful Mardi Gras with so much fun for every member of the family. We’ve had some big name entertainers come to Port Arthur and the ball and parade simply cannot be beat.”

This year the folks have chosen the theme “Spirit of Mardi Gras,” which is evident everywhere to celebrate the successful 20 year history. “It is really like a big family reunion. Folks come to Port Arthur from everywhere you can imagine, and they gather and hug and chat. It is just wonderful to witness,” said Simon.

“That first year we were all so excited, but I got worried and wondered, ‘What if no one comes out to see the parade? What if folks are just not interested?’ And, then, I thought, ‘What could go wrong?’ We mounted the float, took our places, got our beads ready, and when we turned on to the seawall, I thought my heart would burst. The seawall was lined with a sea of people, all cheering, smiling, waving, having fun, and I knew we had succeeded in fine fashion,” said Simon. “We’ve been doing it ever since. Mardi Gras is party time in Port Arthur and all of Southeast Texas. People come from so many places to celebrate with us.”

Though much preparation has gone on for months and months, the first really formal event of the season is the Majestic Krewe of Aurora Grand Ball to be held Saturday evening.

The primary sponsor for the Majestic Krewe of Aurora’s Grand Ball is Motiva Enterprises.

You must be a member of the Krewe or invited by a member to participate in this black tie affair. Entertainment goes on practically nonstop, and a wonderfully exciting carnival is available for kids during the days of Mardi Gras. There is a change in the carnival for this year. It will be located outside the entertainment area, and a FunPass will be available for purchase. The wristbands will give children access to the carnival and may be purchased before hand or at the gate. There is no gate fee for access to the carnival area. The wristbands are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. These fun passes are available at the Mardi Gras store and area credit unions and they give unlimited rides for one day.

Saturday, Feb. 18, the Majestic Krewe of Aurora puts on the big finale with the Grand Parade. No one wants to miss this event because of all the loot one can garner as the folks on the floats throw out beads and trinkets. As of press time, the following themed floats are in the parade:

Laura and Big Childress – Fleur De Lis – RMA Credit Association

Peggy and Norris Simon Jr. – Cajun Spice – Simco Enterprises

Vickey and Mark Roccaforte – Flambeau – BASF

Wanda and Roland Mendoza – Power, Faith and Justice – Exygon Health and Fitness Club

Cynthia and Kenneth Hinds – Harlequin – Hinds Quality Fence Company

Jan and Danny Walker – Voodoo – Newtron Mechanical

Laura and Don Reeves – Jester – Krewe of Aurora

Danielle and Dominick Faraci – 20th Anniversary – Faraci Heating and A/C

Jackie and Stephen Smith – Comedy / Tragedy – Geaux Mail

Vi and Otis Ward – Carnival Time – Krewe of Aurora

Teresa Martin and James McNutt – Jazz Man – Kinsel Lincoln

Cassie Caillouet and Jim Sharon Bearden – Masquerade – Bearden & Bearden Law Firm

Try to imagine 20 years of pageantry, pomp, and party perfection rolled into one Mardi Gras celebration. The Majestic Krewe of Aurora will be celebrating all 20 years in the 2012 event, and no one will want to miss one minute of the fun, food and fellowship. These folks will go back to their roots and explore the magical and mystical symbols of Mardi Gras. Prepare to be amazed at the incredible display of the glittering and glamorous royal court, see the mysterious masqueraders, flickering flambeau, and so much more.

Visit the group for more information at www.facebook.com/kreweofaurora or www.facebook.com/mardigrasssetx or at the Krewe of Aurora site, mardigras.portarthur.com/aurora. Laura Childress is available at (409) 721-8717 or at laura [at] portarthur [dot] com.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.

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