At least 65,000 people this year paid for entry to Mardi Gras! Galveston, posting a significant increase from the number of people who attended in 2016.
Ticket sales showed that 11,000 more people attended Mardi Gras in 2017 than in the year before.
The city receives $1 a person for the first 60,000 people who buy a ticket to Galveston’s Mardi Gras celebration, which takes place over two weekends in February.
Yaga’s Presents, the event promoter that contracts with the city to host the event, gave the city $62,883 for the so-called “dollar-head count,” city spokeswoman Jaree Hefner said.
Any tickets sold past the 60,000 mark yields the city 50 cents a person, according to Yaga’s agreement with the city. The total amount the city received from Yaga’s this year would translate to at least 65,766 people who bought tickets to the event.
In 2015, the city only received $53,994 for the dollar head count, meaning 53,994 people bought tickets, according to documents received through a public records request.
The city also receives $100,000 from Yaga’s Presents to offset the city’s cost in providing services for the event, such as police and cleanup.
On paper, however, the city of Galveston hasn’t ever profited from Mardi Gras. The amount Yaga’s gives the city each year hasn’t ever broken even with the amount the city pays to help out with the event, according to the documents.
In 2016, Yaga’s paid the city $153,994, and the city still ran a deficit of $164,000 during the Mardi Gras weekends, according to the documents.
Regardless, the city is getting closer to offsetting the costs each year, City Manager Brian Maxwell said.
“Since the city took over management of the event, we’ve been able to continuously reduce the expenses each year,” Maxwell said. “We are much closer to the break-even point than we were in years past.”
Some profits are also not reflected in ticket sales, he said.
“We feel the difference is more than made up for in what we gain in sales tax and hotel occupancy tax,” Maxwell said.
City officials have not yet calculated the total amount of expenses incurred over the 2017 Mardi Gras weekends, Hefner said.
Several business owners on The Strand have been critical of the city’s contract with Yaga’s, because buying tickets on the Mardi Gras weekends is the only way to gain access to The Strand. Some Strand merchants stay open, while others close early or close entirely during the event.
“The Strand businesses do not consent nor receive a penny of the money,” Strand business owner Allen Flores said. “The Strand businesses are forced to close up or sell beer to make up from the losses from customers staying away for two weekends.”
Other business owners said the Mardi Gras events can have the effect of drawing people to their stores.
“We do pretty well,” business owner Don McClaugherty said. “We have a pretty good location.”