photos courtesy of Debbie Noble/Barefoot Mardi Gras
Leave it to Corpus Christi to one-up the coastal Mardi Gras game. To paraphrase Shakespeare: While the Coastal Bend’s emergence as a bona fide Mardi Gras destination festival may be “little, she is fierce!” And by fierce, we mean right on the beach.
That’s right, like no other Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S., Corpus Christi’s Barefoot Mardi Gras on Padre Island, promises exactly what it can deliver, some serious laissez le bon temps rouler right on the sand, with the waves lapping at your feet and the beads flying right into your mitts!
From Humble Beginnings
What began in 2009 as a backyard party and an excuse to celebrate with some friends, evolved into a neighborhood gathering replete with costumes.
Each year, the gathering grew, “First with a parade around the neighborhood,” according to event coordinator Elaine Motl. “Then a daytime parade on the beach and an evening King & Queen Ball.” Once the event hit 2,000 revelers and maxed out capacity at the ball, the gregarious gang of do-gooders approached the Padre Island Business Association to lend a hand and take over the event.
Our Little Baby Event Is Growing Up!
In 2016, the group expanded the weekend to include a festival right on the beach. The parade rolls out at 11 a.m., along the beach, off Park Road 22, between Whitecap Boulevard and Bob Hall Pier. The festival also begins at 11 a.m., but at Briscoe King Pavilion, where the parade ends up. Folks are encouraged to park their cars on the beach along the parade route, and then walk to the festival. (The path will be lined with port-a-potties, so don’t freak out.)
The parade lasts about an hour and a half along a mile-long route. It passes the muster of a community Mardi Gras parade:
- Lots of Purple, Green and Gold (for justice, faith and power)? CHECK!
- Floats? Especially if you count wildly decorated golf carts! CHECK!
- Community leaders, businesses and regular folks? CHECK!
- Feather boas, glitter, sequins, and silliness? CHECK!
- Pets dressed up like people? CHECK!
- Beads??? CHECK CHECK CHECK!
The intent is to grow the celebration each year. “This year we are really going to blow it out,” said Motl. “Expect delicious Cajun food, live music, more vendors and artisans, including exhibitions of glass-blowing and pottery, as well as many local businesses welcoming guests.” The daytime activities are all-ages and totally family-friendly. “We will feature a children's area where kids can do free arts & crafts and learn how to make sandcastles.”
The big evening event, the King & Queen Ball, however, is not for the little ones.
Each Year, Expect More, More, More!
Throwing a Mardi Gras party on the beach is brilliant if we do say so ourselves. It’s a natural fit. Before Barefoot Mardi Gras, Padre Island was pretty sleepy during those weeks as winter turns to spring. “It is absolutely gorgeous,” Motl beamed enthusiastically. “There’s plenty of sunshine, temperatures in the 70s, and here on Padre Island, you can actually park your car on the beach and watch the parade go by.
“We offer something different than what others are doing,” said Motl. “We hope to bring in more traditions as we learn about customs from other Mardi Gras celebrations, all while developing unique ones of our own. Mardi Gras is all about being true and authentic!
For more information, check out the website link on the Barefoot Mardi Gras page. Plan your trip to Corpus Christi and get ready to catch some beads while you catch some rays!