Stephen F. Austin State University

Mardi Gras in Jefferson (January 2013)

Mardi Gras in Jefferson
By Jeff Campbell

Next month, all around the country, Americans will be celebrating Mardi Gras. For most places its just an excuse for a party. Only a few cities like New Orleans, Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama can honestly say they have a historical and cultural connection to Mardi Gras. Jefferson, Texas is also a city that has a defined historical and cultural link to the Mardi Gras Holiday.

From 1845 to the late 1870's Jefferson was a steamboat trading partner with the city of New Orleans. New Orleans steamboats traveling north on the Mississippi would veer off onto the Red River, travel across Caddo Lake and then up Big Cypress Bayou to the Port of Jefferson. The New Orleans influence is still recognizable in the architecture and heritage of Jefferson.

Jefferson's first Mardi Gras celebration was held in 1871. Mary Eugenia Alford was the Queen of that first Mardi Gras. By 1876 Mardi Gras in Jefferson had grown into a city wide celebration.

The April 20th edition of the Tri-Weekly Herald reported that "The city is thronged with people from different portions of the state. The train from Shreveport and Marshall was crowded. There must have been at least 300 on the cars. The train from Texarkana brought other delegations. Captain Kouns, with his boat, is here with 60 or 80 passengers from Shreveport and the lakes...The city is ablaze with excitement. All business has been suspended today and everything given over to pleasure."

Today the Krewe of Hebe carries on Jefferson's tradition of Mardi Gras Upriver. The 2013 celebration starts with the Queen Mab ball on January 26th and continues with a city wide celebration from February 8th through the 10th. The celebration features live music, a Mardi Gras parade and a Sunday children's parade.

In East Texas there is no need to travel to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. Here in the 'Little Easy' of Jefferson, Texas we dress in purple, green and gold, dance in the parades and catch beads off of wrought iron balconies; just like the Big Easy.