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Mississippi Mardi Gras Season Set to Roll Across Gulf Coast

By Rhonda Miller | Published 01 Feb 2012 10:16pm | comments
Doug Blom builds floats for the Gulf Coast Carnival Association at the Carnival Den in Biloxi.

There is no need to go over to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports that dozens of parades will begin hitting Mississippi streets this weekend.

The Mardi Gras parade in Pass Christian this year is certain to be just as lively as last year’s. Mayor Chipper McDermott says the word got out long ago.

"It’s statewide and all that, so they come down here now, and we have about 4,600 people in the town and about 70,000 people come to the parade," McDermott says. "So that ought to tell you how much we swell."

Actually, the whole Gulf Coast swells. According to the Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, more than 450,000 people show up during Mississippi’s Mardi Gras season.  The economic impact is estimated at several million dollars spent for hotels, food, costumes and decorations.

But underneath all the purple, green and gold, the roots of Mardi Gras run deep on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Pass Christian held its first parade in 1914. Robin Rafferty is coordinator his year.

"I was king in 2003, my father was king in 1958 and my grandfather in 1938," says Rafferty. "So it’s just been a tradition."

The tradition also runs deep Biloxi, where the first parade was in 1908. Now it’s run by the Gulf Coast Carnival Association and attracts 90,000 people. Executive Director Nancy Rogers says the most important part of the celebration hasn’t changed in all these years.

"It’s another excuse for the family to get together and have a good time," Rogers says. "There’s a lot of families that are on the parade route, one of the reasons why  they live on the parade route, is so all the family can come to their house, they can have a picnic, they can walk outside, see the parade, go back inside, watch it on TV and then go home."

The fun is also expanding to Hattiesburg this year. The city is having its first Mardi Gras parade.  Mardis Gras season in Mississippi begins Saturday and runs through Fat Tuesday on February 21.






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