Sharing not just a border but also much of the culture of Lousiana, Southeast Texas has come to embrace the Mardi Gras tradition with annual festivities complete with beads, parades and costumed balls.

Since 1993, the city of Port Arthur has celebrated its Cajun connections with the Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas with balls and parades that bring hundreds of thousands of revelers to downtown Port Arthur.

The four-day, family-friendly 2008 event, "Majestic Destinations," begins Thursday, Jan. 31, with the Courir du Mardi Gras parade down Lakeshore Drive. The parade is based on a rural Louisiana tradition featuring masked riders going house to house collecting ingredients for a community gumbo feast. Mardi Gras officially begins when a chicken is tossed in the air.

Friday the Krewe of Krewes Parade begins at 7 p.m. on Procter Street and enters the festival grounds at 8:30 p.m.

Saturday events begin at 10 a.m. and include the Royalty March and a motorcycle showcase and run. The main event is the Krewe of Aurora Grand Parade at 6 p.m.

Pets, kids and trucks will have their own parades on Sunday.

Throughout the weekend concerts will be held on several stages. Scheduled to perform are Cajun-inspired Wayne Toups, Mambo Kings and Zydeco Outlaws; Texas favorites Kevin Fowler and Pat Green; and a special performance by the Philadelphia Mummers.

Of course there will be lots of food, street vendors and performers and children's activities including Spongebob Squarepants.

Five years ago the good time spirit rolled into Beaumont, and festivities are set for Feb. 1-2 in downtown.

Food vendors, entertainment, parades, a carnival and exciting activities will be part of the family-oriented celebration that is growing every year.

The excitement begins on Friday night with a parade at 6 pm. Saturday will feature two parades. The 4 p.m. Kids & Pet Parade will feature kids in wagons, on foot and with their pets. It will be followed by another parade at 6 p.m. All parades will travel down Orleans and Pearl streets and end at Crockett and Main Street.

The night-time parades will feature floats with local crews, marching bands, dance teams, motorcycles, classic cars and much more. Parades Unlimited will organize the Beaumont Mardi Gras parades.

Live music and family fun activities as well a food court will all be located near the Art Museum of Southeast Texas and the Jefferson Theatre. Exciting sounds will fill the air with outdoor concerts at the Crockett Street Entertainment District.

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