ARANSAS PASS, Texas — Mardi Gras came early in Aransas Pass as the first Pardi Gras festival filled the downtown streets of Aransas Pass, bringing that Cajun feel to south Texas.
“We want to see this community thrive and grow," said Amy Collins, board member of the Aransas Pass Chamber of Commerce. "And so, this is just the first step of many.”
It started with a morning parade that led to the street festival with food trucks, craft vendors and live music.
“We want people in Aransas Pass to understand this is a fun community," she said. "This is a family friendly community. We want to bring different activities like this more often. And give families something to do here, in our community.
Ebony Parker was one of the craft vendors who decided to take part in the event, after seeing a post about it on Facebook. She said it aligned with the launch of her re-brand. She brought her business that creates positive affirmation shirts for children.
“I think it will definitely bring everybody together," said Parker, owner of Aeta Affirmation Apparel. "It’s inclusive, I can say that. It’s a lot of diversity out here.”
It was the gumbo cook-off that drew people in. 11 teams competing, coming from surrounding cities and right here in Aransas Pass, brought their expertise. One contest was Chris Wolfe, the chef at local restaurant, Coasters. He said the key to his gumbo is the okra.
“I think they’ve done really well," he said. "It’s a huge show out. Aransas Pass doesn’t usually do things like this. So, it’s a good turnout for us.”
That’s the perception Collins is hoping to change. She said the money from Pardi Gras goes to Destination Aransas Pass. They've been on mission to revitalize the downtown are. They began with better landscaping and new benches and this event builds on that.
“That is a 501c3 for Aransas Pass to really focus on improving this downtown area and bringing more events like this to the community,” said Collins.
Chandler's Motley Roux was announced the winner of the gumbo cook-off. They won a free trip for 2 to New Orleans. Coastal Bend GBC was voted into second place. The Slowride team was crowned the People's Choice champion.
Chrome Divas were crowned the best overall entry in the Pardi Gras Parade.
Collins said after seeing the turnout at this first time event, she's sure they'll be back for year 2.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans takes place on March 1.