Information session set for today on business recovery grant
January 31, 2007
Nathan Robinson
February 2, 2007
Information session set for today on business recovery grant
January 31, 2007
Nathan Robinson
February 2, 2007

Mardi Gras in the Houma/Thibodeaux area is the second largest in the state of Louisiana, and preliminary economic indicators predict a banner year for Carnival in the Tri-parish area.

According to Melanie Melancon Thornton, director of Communications for the Houma Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, “The majority of our accommodations are full during the Mardi Gras season, which gives us a strong indication that this year’s visitor turnout will be high.”

Terrebonne Parish Government is predicting much the same.

Council Clerk Paul Labat said, “we are projecting that Carnival 2007 should be more economically beneficial for the parish than Carnival 2006 was because there will be more visitors here specifically for Carnival.”

Although accommodations in the Tri-parish area were filled to near capacity during Carnival 2006, a large percentage of those occupants were relief workers in the area due to Hurricane Katrina.

According to Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center Executive Director David Ohlmeyer, the true economic impact of Mardi Gras celebrations on the Tri-parishes is directly correlated with the number of out-of-town visitors in the area specifically for Carnival.

Fortunately, this year that number seems particularly high.

Ohlmeyer said the majority of Mardi Gras throws are bought in the New Orleans area, however, local Mardi Gras supply businesses report that business has been brisk.

Ryan Hutchison, co-owner of Celebration Supply in Houma, reports brisk sales.

“We have $5,000 worth of Mardi Gras inventory and expect to sell it and stock more,” he said.

Other party supply stores in the area report a similarly high demand for Mardi Gras related merchandise.

Tory Hebb, the manager of Party Universe, said that Carnival produces a 35 to 40 percent increase in business. “We have customers coming in from Cutoff, La Rose, even New Orleans to buy beads and different throws.”

Carnival not only provides a number of economic opportunities for businesses’ large and small in the Tri-parish area, but gives Carnival celebrants the opportunity to look positively regal, if only for Carnival.

Kathy Samanie, of Wesley Austin Formal Wear, said that Carnival, along with the homecoming and senior prom seasons, is the busiest time of the year.

Mardi Gras is not just an economic windfall for local business. Large corporations, such as Wal-Mart, are benefiting as well.

Kristi Verrett, the lead associate in the bakery at the Wal-Mart located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Houma, has over five years of service with Wal-Mart. She characterizes demand for King cakes as “even better than pre-Katrina. Before Katrina during Carnival we would produce maybe cases of King Cakes per day. Each case contains 24 King Cakes. For Carnival this year we’ve been producing about 12 cases per day. As the parades start to roll we’ll get even busier.”

Although Mardi Gras is generally viewed favorably by most business entities, not everyone benefits all the time.

Ohlmeyer said that contract laborers at the civic center often have to break down one event to set up for another, often in the wee hours of the morning. He explained those conditions can complicate the process of attracting quality contract labor.

Even with this obstacle, the civic center’s operations are doing pretty well, Ohlmeyer said. The facility was unavailable for rent because of prior commitments for 301 days last year.

Officials agree it is difficult to tabulate the total economic impact of Mardi Gras on the Tri-parish region because of the numerous variables inherent in the equation. These variables include consumable goods sales, such as food and beverage sales, hotel/motel tax revenues, municipal expenditures, and environmental impact costs.

Compounding the difficulty of calculating the economic impact on the Tri-parish region is the existence of multiple municipal bodies, each with their own implications.

In response to the difficult but ultimately necessary task of an in-depth accounting of the impact of Mardi Gras on the region’s economy, Michelle Edwards, the marketing and recruitment director for the Terrebonne Economic Development Authority, said that TEDA is “planning on charting the economic impact of Mardi Gras on the local economy.”

According to Edwards, “increased sales of consumable goods means bringing in dollars from outside the parish. This is true economic development, the infusion of new money into the local economy. We have a wonderful family-oriented Mardi Gras celebration that is safe for children. We think that people who have attended our Mardi Gras celebration will return, and those attending for the first time this year will return next year.”

With 12 parades and the subsequent tableaus and balls, the Houma-Terrebonne area will be very busy in February.

The Mardi Gras brochure of the Houma Area Convention and Visitor Bureau promises an abundance of “colorful themed floats, marching bands and tons of great throws.”

“Carnival 2007 appears to be heading in a very positive economic direction,” Edwards said.

Staff photo by RAY SNIDER • Tri-Parish Times * Torey Hebb, Rolinda Theriot and Charles Moses, of Party Universe, share a laugh as they stock Mardi Gras beads. Officials expect this year’s Carnival season an economical boon for the Tri-parishes.