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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Mistick Krewe of Okeanos celebrates community, culture during Mardi Gras

The+Mistick+Krewe+of+Okeanos+Mardi+Gras+Parade%2C+Saturday%2C+Feb.+22%2C+2020%2C+in+the+San+Marcos+Historic+District.%26%23160%3B

The Mistick Krewe of Okeanos Mardi Gras Parade, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in the San Marcos Historic District. 

Colorful parade floats and live music will fill the streets of the city this weekend as the annual Mardi Gras parade hosted by the Mistick Krewe of Okeanos rolls through town on Saturday.
The Mistick Krewe of Okeanos is a nonprofit organization that seeks to foster peace in the community and support local art and music through annual Mardi Gras celebrations. Similar to other Mardi Gras krewes across Texas and Louisiana, the San Marcos organization takes its name from the Greek river deity, Okeanos, to honor the San Marcos River.
Diana Baker, founder and krewe captain of the Mistick Krewe of Okeanos, and her husband started the organization 10 years ago when they moved to Texas after losing their home and business in Louisiana to Hurricane Katrina. Baker said the organization and its service is their way of paying back the community that took them in.
“It started in my house with just a simple party,” Baker said. “We just had a party at my house just to honor some people who had done a lot for the city and a lot for historic preservation here in town because I live in a historic neighborhood and a historic house. And so, we, you know, being from Louisiana, the only way I really knew how to honor anyone was to crown them king and queen.”
What began as a house party has blossomed into a city-wide celebration of community, music, food and art. The celebration took place at Baker’s house for three years until it eventually grew enough to be moved into the Price Center. Now an annual parade recognized by the city, Baker said it’s amazing to see how interest and participation have grown since the beginning.
“It just keeps growing. And without us even really trying, it just keeps growing,” Baker said. “People want to be involved which is surprising to me because it’s sort of a Louisiana thing. But everybody likes the food and the tradition so much and it’s just so much fun that, you know, people just like it for some reason. I think that people need a little Mardi Gras in their life, right?”
French for “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras signifies the celebration period before the start of Lent, a Christian fasting period, on Ash Wednesday. The traditions of today’s Mardi Gras celebrations involving intricate masks, colorful beads along with lavish balls and parades can be traced back to 1800s New Orleans and the original Carnival krewe, the Mistick Krewe of Comus.
Regardless of what city the festivities are in, the Carnival celebration is a culmination of Cajun and Creole food, jazz music and brass bands, colorful art plus glamourous costumes and beads of gold, green and purple, traditional Mardi Gras colors symbolizing power, faith and justice.
The last time the San Marcos celebration took place before the pandemic halted the festivities was in February 2020. In place of the parade last year, the Mistick Krewe hosted a “Yardi Gras” in which community members decked their homes in Mardi Gras fashion to compete in a home decorating contest.
Danielle Knott, a Mistick Krewe volunteer, and her husband joined the Mistick Krewe two years ago to help with the 2020 parade. As a native Louisianian who would visit home to celebrate Mardi Gras, Knott said she is excited to experience Mardi Gras in San Marcos again.
“It’s exciting. We’re like, ‘yay finally, we’re back,'” Knott said. “People from Louisiana — Mardi Gras is part of our soul. It’s like in our soul. I grew up with it … and so I’m just excited to be more involved, and just to share our love with Mardi Gras with everybody around here. It’s fun, it’s food, you know, it’s beads … it’s nice to be able to share a little bit of Louisiana Mardi Gras with other people.”
The theme for this year’s 10-year anniversary parade is “Okeanos Salutes San Marcos” to highlight the relationship that the organization has with the community. A large component of the Mistick Krewe of Okeanos’ mission is its philanthropic efforts. Each year the organization pays a local artist to create the poster for Mardi Gras week. This year, the Mistick Krewe also donated $2,000 worth of musical instruments to San Marcos’ Goodnight Middle School’s orchestra.
In addition to the parade, Baker said the group also introduced a “restaurant week” this year in which local restaurants created their own Mardi Gras menus. Some also participated in a gumbo cookoff event hosted at Zelicks Icehouse this past weekend to officially kick off Mardi Gras week.
Wayne Kraemer, this year’s Mardi Gras king and a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, is a founding member of the Mistick Krewe of Okeanos and has enjoyed seeing the event grow into a big celebration of San Marcos history, culture and people. Kraemer, who is also from Louisiana, calls the holiday an “exploration of the senses.”
“It’s on the day of the parade. It’s hearing the bands, watching the floats, which are works of art go by. It’s eating the food. It’s hearing the laughter. It’s all those sensory things that just make you feel good,” Kraemer said. “And it’s one time a year when we kind of have that. That confluence of all of these different senses thrust upon us, and it’s just wonderful to experience.”
Kraemer is also involved in several organizations across San Marcos including The Heritage Association of San Marcos and the LBJ Museum of San Marcos. As someone who has connections to both the city and the university, he thinks community participation is important.
The Mistick Krewe of Okeanos has several connections to Texas State. This year’s Mardi Gras Queen, Ann DuPont, is a former professor who taught classes in the university’s fashion merchandising program.
When it came to designing the Mardi Gras regalia, the group turned to Sheila Hargett, a former colleague of Kraemer who previously taught in Texas State’s costume design and technology program. She and her niece, Alexandra Hargett, who is a Texas State alumna, designed the costumes for Kraemer and DuPont to wear at The Krewe of Okeanos’ Twelfth Night Ball on Jan. 8 and during the Mardi Gras parade so it would closely replicate the costumes of New Orleans Mardi Gras.
“I think it’s really kind of nice, that, you know, Texas State has really done this and brought this kind of diversity and this kind of artistic ability to the community that we could have something like this,” Baker said. “So, there’s a definite Texas State link here. The university should be very proud of the king and the queen this year, and also the people from the university who have created different things that are part of the parade.”
As the Mistick Krewe of Okeanos prepares to bring its main parade event back to San Marcos, Kraemer hopes the event and the festivities that lead up to it can serve as a way for the community to show off its best qualities and honor the traditions of Mardi Gras.
“I think it’s really uplifting. I mean, there’s so many things now going on in the world that are depressing and so if we can look to this as a positive, optimistic way of celebrating, you know, Mardi Gras and celebrating San Marcos, it makes you feel really good,” Kramer said. “I think it’s a way to celebrate the historical and cultural elements that we have here in San Marcos and kind of show our civic pride by bringing this kind of revelry to the city of San Marcos.”
The Mistick Krewe of Okeanos Mardi Gras Parade will start at noon on Saturday, Feb. 26 on Belvin Street. For more information about the parade and the organization, visit http://mistickkreweofokeanos.com/ or @KreweOfOkeanos on Facebook.

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  • The Mistick Krewe of Okeanos Mardi Gras Parade, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in the San Marcos Historic District. 

  • Wayne Kraemer, The Mistick Krewe of Okeanos’ 2022 Mardi Gras king and senior lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies poses in his king’s regalia.

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