2023 Washington Mardi Gras Shatters Attendance Records
Louisiana lawmakers, lobbyists, and business executives recently returned from what is said to be the most popular Washington Mardi Gras ever, according to private organizers. The event, held in the nation's capital, is an annual gathering where Louisiana’s political and corporate elite come together to meet with the state's congressional delegation, build relationships and celebrate. This year's event was particularly significant due to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in federal funds available for local governments, as well as the effort to pass the RISEE Act, which would raise the cap on federal payments to Louisiana from offshore federal waters. Additionally, the upcoming gubernatorial election added to the excitement of the event.
U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow, R-Start, who chaired the event, stated that “while we all enjoy the celebrations, this week is an opportunity for our delegation to meet with stakeholders from across the state and have important conversations about Louisiana’s future.” This year's event attracted an impressive turnout, with more than 3,000 wrist bracelets sold for the various events. The Thursday night "Louisiana Alive!" party was particularly popular and attracted D.C. residents.
The Washington Mardi Gras, which began in the 1940s as a casual party for homesick congressional staffers, is now organized by the Mystick Krewe of Louisianans, a group of leaders from law and lobbying firms who pay for the event through fees, ticket sales, and dues. The event is held at the Washington Hilton, which was also the headquarters during the event, with nearly 90% of its roughly 1,000 rooms being booked by people from Louisiana. Other attendees stayed in nearby hotels, and related events were held in restaurants, bars, and venues around the city.
One of the key highlights of the event was the black-tie ball on Saturday night, where tickets sold at $300 or more each. The event was so popular that the D.C. fire marshal crowd restrictions required the krewe to buy back some passes. The media was discouraged from covering the event to preserve an atmosphere where politicians and businesspersons could speak freely and unguardedly.
Parish executives met with their delegation members to discuss federal projects that impact Louisiana communities, such as flood insurance, which was a key topic on the agenda for nearly every parish president. The governor and all six officials listed in the state Constitution's Article 4 Section 14 line of succession were also in attendance.
Liz Mangham, a Baton Rouge lobbyist and former Mardi Gras princess in the 1980s, shared that the event allows attendees to build relationships and exposes young women to something they've never experienced before. "It exposes young women to something they’ve never experienced before and maybe it sparks an interest in public service. That’s what it did for me," said Mangham.
In conclusion, the Washington Mardi Gras is a significant event that brings together Louisiana’s political and corporate elite to discuss important issues affecting the state, build relationships, and celebrate. The event's popularity has only grown over the years and continues to be an essential gathering for those interested in Louisiana's future.