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COVID-19 vaccines administered during Cowboy Mardi Gras

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  • COVID-19 vaccines administered during Cowboy Mardi Gras
    A motorcycle rider in a primate mask exchanges a high five with a parade attendee during the Cowboy Mardi Gras parade in front of the Bandera County Courthouse last Saturday. MUM PHOTO/Chuck McCollough

424 people received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 last Friday, Jan. 5, during a vaccination clinic at the Silver Sage hosted by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)

“It was fast, efficient and evely person was extremely professional,” said Bandera local Jodie Sinclair, who received her dose Friday morning. Bandera Emergency Management Coordinator Carey Reed said, “All in all, I would say it went well, and I hope any clinics we schedule in the future will be as good.”

Reed said some were turned down because they had received a recent positive COVID-19 test or a flu shot within the last 14 day.

Those people will stay on the list to receive a vaccine at the next available opportunity, although there are no definite plans yet for another clinic. In the meantime, Reed encourages county residents to get a vaccine wherever they can.

“DSHS appreciated the work of the volunteers as that reduced some of the stress of doing all the jobs on them,” said Reed. The staff was also so appreciative of the Silver Sage supplying lunch, which made trading off taking time for lunch very easy and time consuming.”

Meanwhile, just one mile away in the heart of Bandera, festivities were underway for the 16th Cowboy Mardi Gras.

“I believe this is our best and biggest event yet and you can see that just looking at all the people in the streets and other places,” said event founder James McGroarty while dressed in a Mardi Gras suit and feathered hat in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold.

McGroarty said plans had been underway for the event for nearly seven months.

“The event is a lifesaver for Bandera,” he said. “It makes up for all the bad times we have had to endure, and things are finally starling to come back from COVID closures.”

The bulk of the festivities, which included a parade, costume contest, musical concerts and a gumbo cookoff, took place Saturday and drew attendees from around the area and even out of state.

“When Mardi Gras in Galveston was cancelled, we found the events in Bandera and traveled there to enjoy that gorgeous day” said Janis Lowe, who attended the event with a group of women associated with Galveston’s event.

This year’s parade had around 70 participating entities, said Bandera County Convention Sr Visitors Bureau Executive Director Patricia Moore, adding that may be a record.

“This is our largest event of its kind and draws hundreds of visitors and that helps the local economy” Moore said.

Moore added the city does not have the resources to properly take attendance for the event, and reports of 20,000 attendees seems highly unlikely.

The town and the businesses needed this event. We needed something to be excited about and plan for,” said Bandera City Council Member Toni Kunz.

With the event being arguably the biggest of the year, some expressed concerns about COVID-19 safety.

“There’s always a concern that COVID numbers will spike after a large gathering,” said Bandera County Judge Richard Evans. “Hopefully, there won’t be.”

“People took their own safety and health into their own hands,” said Mayor Suzanne Schauman. “They have the freedom of choice.”

“There was a mixed bag of people with masks and without masks. However, everyone was incredibly courteous and respectful of one another,” said McGroarty. “They did their best not to invade each other’s space. From my perspective, there were zero problems.”

Bandera United Methodist Church annual baked potato sale Baked Potato Sale was held outside due to COVID-19 safety concerns, but still had a great business because of all the visitors to the event, according to church spokesperson Teri Morgan.

“The people and organizations involved did a phenomenal job of offering more outdoor activities than ever so people could comfortably be a part of festivities and still maintain safe distances without having to wear masks,” said Kunz.

“There is no doubt in my mind we will see a spike in Bandera County numbers, just as there have been after each holiday where families gather with others outside their normal bubble of people,” Kunz said. “I am a proponent of providing information and letting people make their own personal choices. We could not have asked for more perfect weather and each business and citizen, whether they are local or not, made a choice to participate.”

“The laws we currently have on the books support all businesses’ the right to refuse service if/when they feel a need or a want to do so,” said Kunz. “I hope that was clearly communicated to them and they feel comfortable in requesting assistance from our local Marshals’ office. If they don’t, we have a bigger problem and I encourage them to voice their concerns to city hall and/ or city council so that we can address properly.”

Editor’s note: Daniel Tucker, Shannon Lincoln, Chuck McCollough and Tracy Thayer contributed to this article.