Bay St. Louis Tells the Story of Mardi Gras
By Julie Hunger
It’s that time of year again for parades, floats, doubloons and beads. That’s right … it’s Carnival time! What kid doesn’t love attending parades and catching all the fun stuffed animals, trinkets and beads?
Mardi Gras — or Fat Tuesday, as it is known locally — is the last day of the season and always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. This year, the big day happens on March 5.
An excellent way for families to enjoy or become more acquainted with Mardi Gras outside of attending parades — or, as a way to entertain out-of-town guests — is to visit a Mardi Gras museum. Here on the coast, we are fortunate to have two.
One is the Biloxi Mardi Gras museum, found within the historic Magnolia Hotel. You’ll have to save that one for next year, however. According to Anna Ray, Public Relations Manager for Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, it is currently moving to a new location and won’t be open in time for Mardi Gras.
Thankfully, however, the lovely Bay St. Louis Mardi Gras Museum, located in the Historic L&N Train Depot, is open for business … and it’s free! The depot district is a nice place to bring visitors. The museum is located at 1928 Depot Way, Bay St. Louis, and is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (800)466-9048.
Featuring over 15 full-display costumes ranging from Pages to Queens and Kings, it shows off the elaborate costumes typical of the season. You will get to see the scepters and crowns of carnival royalty, antique doubloon collections and Mardi Gras beads, and learn about the history of Mardi Gras.
An interview with Myrna Green, of the Hancock Tourism Bureau, gave some background on the museum. The Tourism Bureau lost its offices to Hurricane Katrina. Without a home, the bureau was given the upstairs of the old train depot to use after the city government moved out and into its new City Hall headquarters.
Since the bottom floor was vacant, the tourism bureau got the idea for a visitor’s center and soon secured a grant. The center consisted mostly of tables with brochures about local restaurants and attractions. It felt quite bare, so it was decided to decorate with a few Mardi Gras costumes. They were so popular, the bureau secured a second grant to open a full Mardi Gras museum.
Costumes are donated by local krewes, such as Nereids and Seahorse, to name a few. A few years ago, notable Mardi Gras historian Arthur Hardy even included an article on the Bay St. Louis Mardi Gras Museum in his famous yearly guide to Carnival.
Parades of course abound this time of year, so check out the websites for the individual parades — or our local tourism bureaus — for exact dates and times. A few favorites for those with small kids are the Biloxi Children’s Walking Parade, which happens February 23, and the St. Paul Children’s parade, which happens in Pass Christian on March 3.
So y’all go out and pass a good time this year, and when you’re at the parades, don’t forget to yell, “throw me something mister!”
Julie Hunger is a native New Orleanian who has resided in South Mississippi for the past 20 years. Besides being a writer, she is a Purchasing Agent and Logistics Technician for a major industrial firm. She loves life, spending time with family and in nature, fishing, music and her rescue babies Maddie, Smokey and Scaredy Cat.