The afternoon of Mar. 1, saw beads, masks and fun, as the city of Magnolia hosted its second annual Mardi Gras on the Stroll Cajun Cookoff. The cookoff serves to promote local businesses and organizations within the community. Six cook teams participated in the competition, making traditional cajun classics like jambalaya and etouffee on site.
Each of the event's 1,200 visitors were provided with free entertainment from David Pipkin Entertainment and the Greg Tivis Jazz Band, each set up on opposite sides ends of the Magnolia Stroll. For five dollars, attendees could purchase food tickets that gave them unlimited access to the samples being handed out by the competitors as well as tokens with which to vote for their favorite teams.
Mardi Gras on the Stroll was organized by the Magnolia Stroll Committee, the group responsible for putting together all the events the stroll has to offer. Phyllis Stegan, a member of the committee, got involved five years ago along with former Mayor pro-tem Patsy Williams, who passed away last November.
"Something that was very important to her, and it also is to all of us, is to bring people to the Stroll and and even learn that there is a stroll over there," said Stegan. "We just work really hard to bring events to Magnolia that the people that live in Magnolia can enjoy without having to go to Houston or Tomball or The Woodlands."
"Everybody was just raving about the event. They had a lot of fun, and that's what matters to us – that the people enjoy it, have fun, and look forward to coming back again next year."
The event was supported by a number of corporate sponsors, including businesses such as Chicken Express and Aaron's Sale & Lease. Tana Ross, Economic Development Coordinator for the city of Magnolia, expressed a great appreciation for the sponsors of the event.
"I can't say enough about people that are corporate sponsors that choose to be involved in community events," said Ross. “That's just awesome.”
While the event itself went off without any major problems, visitor turnout was lower than had been hoped for. Both Stegan and Ross expressed the belief that competition from other local events, particularly the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, was responsible.
"The way we have it set up is the Saturday before Fat Tuesday. Unfortunately, that's going to put us in competition with the Houston Rodeo cook off probably every other year," commented Stegan. "There was also the construction on 1774 and I think that deterred a little bit."
However, the event organizers remain optimistic about the future of Mardi Gras on the Stroll.
"You see the potential for a lot more. This is just a thing that you can build on and continue to have fun. This is just our second annual, you know, and we'll just march on," said Ross.