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More than 350,000 people are expected to visit Galveston during its 108th Mardi Gras celebration taking place Friday through March 5. While much attention is given to the parties, parades, and entertainment, less is given to the many nonprofit organizations that benefit as a result of the event.
Mardi Gras! Galveston and its promoter, Yaga’s Entertainment, helps local and national causes, children and pets, first responders and the arts in many ways.
For Krewe Babalu, Mardi Gras activities provide the bulk of funds it raises to conduct service projects throughout the year. The nonprofit organization has provided assistance to local agencies such as the Women’s Crisis Center and The Galveston Island Humane Society. They also provide a float and beads for the Shriners Children’s parade.
Krewe Babalu Ambassador Gladden Walters said this year the krewe is allocating funding to Santa Fe Strong and its official 2019 Mardi Gras bead will feature the cause.
“We try to operate as lean as possible so we can give the bulk of the funds we raise to local nonprofits,” Walters said. “Sometimes organizations come to us with specific needs. Odyssey Academy asked for help to give students Christmas gifts, so we stepped in to help with that.”
Mardi Gras! Galveston has become the largest in Texas and the third largest in the U.S. thanks to the generosity and philanthropy of George Mitchell and his family. Mitchell was instrumental in bringing Texas A&M to Galveston in 1962, and in recognition of that legacy, Yaga’s Entertainment in cooperation with Wyndham Hotels helps to coordinate the annual A&M watch party during Mardi Gras.
“The A&M community in Galveston is a valued service organization and an awesome opportunity for higher education here on the island,” Mike Dean, president of Yaga’s Entertainment, said. “It’s our pleasure to support their endeavors.”
Yaga’s Entertainment also facilitates balcony parties that serve as fundraisers for several krewes and local nonprofits. Among them is the Galveston Island Humane Society. Their members sell tickets to the parties and the organization keeps 100 percent of the proceeds. The Sunshine Kids and Shriners Hospital for Children benefit similarly.
Recognizing and thanking area first-responders is also a priority. Mardi Gras! Galveston dedicates a day to their service and provides free admission to veterans and first responders, plus one of their guests.
“During the year, we provide numerous donations of silent auction items including balcony party tickets and parade rides throughout to charitable organizations across Galveston,” Dean said. “These nonprofits are so essential to keeping Galveston the generous and caring community we know it to be.”
For more information, visit mardigrasgalveston.com.
Park Board meetings are typically held at 1:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesdays of the month at 601 23rd St.
Mary Beth Bassett is the public relations coordinator for the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Park Board of Trustees.