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Bandera’s Cowboy Mardi Gras Tradition Gallops into 21st Year

January 31, 2024 - 05:00
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    Side of bar-Vicki Gillespie of Almost Patsy Cline Band-1st Annual Cowboy Mardi Gras
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    Dance floor with bottle caps-1st Annual Cowboy Mardi Gras. Bulletin Photos/Cari Golyzniak
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    Edon Reed hanging out with cowboys-1st Annual Cowboy Mardi Gras.
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    Front of Cowboys bar-1st Annual Cowboy Mardi Gras.
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    Port Arthur Party Attendees-1st Cowboy Mardi Gras.
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In the lead-up to the Cowboy Mardi Gras festivities from Feb. 1 through Feb. 4, anticipation is mounting in Bandera. This celebration, known for its distinctive flair, is set to captivate both locals and tourists alike.

Eldon and Susanne Reed, founders of the Cowboy Mardi Gras and this year’s Grand Marshals, are reflecting on the Cajun-inspired extravaganza they initiated, now firmly entrenched as a beloved Bandera tradition.

Bandera residents Eldon and Susanne Reed, calling the town home for 21 years, acquired the 11th Street Cowboy Bar in late 2002.

Recognizing the quietude of winter months in Bandera, the Reeds embarked on a mission to boost local businesses through a Cowboy Mardi Gras event.

With limited time for organization, Susanne engaged fellow merchandisers to garner support for the proposed social gathering.

The Reeds enlisted the talents of Jesse Stewart & Ridin’ High, a Cajun and swamp pop music band from Port Arthur, for the event.

Patrons from Port Arthur’s Boudin Hut, familiar with Mardi Gras customs, joined the festivities.

In just a few months, Eldon, with Cajun French roots, and Texas-born Susanne infused the 11th Street Bar with their love for Mardi Gras culture, albeit with a cowboy twist.

The result: the first Cowboy Mardi Gras celebration in 2003, featuring a parade with three entries, including a front-end loader, a B61 Mack truck, an antique wagon, and, naturally, horses.

“Bandera’s Cowboy Mardi Gras was an immediate success. Our goal was to host an event that would stimulate commerce in the slower winter months. The ‘Cowboy Capital of the World’ embraced the Cajun culture with open arms. It was evident that this event would continue to grow each year,” Susanne told the Bulletin.

Post the Reeds’ 2006 sale of the bar, the tradition persisted, becoming a fixture at the 11th Street Bar and in the community.

Subsequent owners expanded, crafted, and promoted larger, more elaborate Mardi Gras festivities that drew visitors nationally and internationally.

Susanne attributed the success to the unwavering support of the community, emphasizing the vital role played by churches, Boy Scouts, and others in meaningful fundraising efforts.

For its 21st annual celebration, the 11th Street Cowboy Bar is set to host nine musical bands and a Gumbo Cook-off, promising three days of festivities, a spirited parade, and a lively hootenanny.

As Grand Marshals, Susanne expressed excitement about leading the ceremonial parade, expected to feature over 100 float entrants this year.

She remarked, “We are very excited to be named Grand Marshals for this year’s parade. So many people that were there at the first parade will be there this year. It’s a chance for everyone to celebrate the roots of Bandera’s Cowboy Mardi Gras.”

The parade is scheduled to commence at noon on Saturday, Feb. 3, starting at the corner of Cypress & Main St. and traversing the town.

Throughout the festivities, various Mardi Gras events and musical performances are planned at Bandera businesses.

For a detailed schedule of events, visit