What happens when you bring Mardi Gras to the Cowboy Capital of the world? One of the wildest, craziest, and fastest growing celebrations in Texas! Cowboy Mardi Gras, held each year for the past six years the week before the official celebration in Louisiana and throughout East Texas, is sure to make you wish you were Cajun! The 11th Street Cowboy Bar, located just one block off of Main Street in Bandera, is the host to this massive celebration, hosting some of the best Zydeco bands and a Gumbo cook-off that boasts more than 30 entrants.
The 11th Street Cowboy Bar has an unassuming store front, and when you step in you are struck by the quaint set up and of course, the bras that hang from the ceiling! Step to the back, though, and you will see why this bar has been dubbed “The biggest little bar in Texas.” Walking through the doors to the back and a dance floor resplendent with a center stage and a fire pit will make you understand why this place is a choice destination. Tables surround the covered outdoor dance floor, with a second bar so that you don’t miss any of the action. But don’t be fooled! Pass through the covered area and you walk into another outdoor dance floor with yet another stage and two stand alone bars! There are three huge fire pits where on certain nights you can BYOS- bring your own steak and grill it while you dance to the latest local sensations. The bar and two dance floors allow for the 11th Street Cowboy Bar to host up to 2300 people, which is awesome, especially when headliners such as Ray Price and Kevin Fowler come to play. There is even a gift shop where you can get your very own 11th Street Cowboy Bar paraphernalia, as well as other gifts. During my visit, the staff were setting up with music playing in the background. Even though I was one of the only patrons in the back, I couldn’t help tapping my foot; the place just makes you want to dance. That’s what makes it the perfect place for the rowdiest Cowboy Mardi Gras in Texas!
The Cowboy Mardi Gras began humbly, seven years ago, with only a few in attendance. The celebration was the creation of the 11th Street Cowboy Bar’s past owners who were from the great state of Louisiana, who wanted to bring Mardi Gras out of the bayou and into the Hill Country and laissez les bon temps roulez! Combining the traditions of the Cajun celebration with the traditions of dance halls and cook-offs of the Grand Old State of Texas, the 11th Street Cowboy Bar cooked up a creation that has continued to satisfy hundreds, with more and more coming every year.
When James McGroarty purchased the 11th Street Cowboy Bar five years ago, not wanting to let the celebration die, he took charge of the Cowboy Mardi Gras and propelled it into the success it is today. Hosted solely by the 11th Street Cowboy Bar, the Cowboy Mardi Gras has exploded in the last couple of years. Three years ago, only 33 revelers were there- last year more than 1500! People from all walks of life come out to enjoy the parade, costume contest, food, company, and of course- the music!
This year’s celebration will start off with Waylon Thibodeaux on Friday, February 5 at 8:30pm. On Saturday, February 6, the party will begin at 8am with the start of the Gumbo Cook-Off.
While the Gumbo is cooking, the party will start revving up at 10am with a muster call inviting all those who wish to participate to join in the parade, an event that has grown to include horses, motorcycles, floats, and people dressed in all forms of Mardi Gras-inspired costumes. One year there were even 24 singing Elvis impersonators from Texas Tech! Nobody is turned away, and everybody is guaranteed to have a great time. The parade will start at noon at the river, go down Main Street, and circle back to where the crowd will gather at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar.
At approximately 12:30pm, Herbie Stutes and The Grand Shin Band will start rocking the house with some authentic Acadian Zydeco music that will guarantee that you tap your toes to the irresistible beat and make you hungry for the Cajun goodies.
The party will go all day, with the bars open and Gumbo samples available for all to taste.
At 3pm, all the guys and gals will gather for the Costume Contest and for the announcement of the winner of the cash prize for the Gumbo Cook-Off.
The Grammy-award nominated, accordion master Jo-El Sonnier will take his place on the grand stage where he will show how its done in the back country. Sonnier began playing the accordion at only three years of age, and by eleven, he debuted his talent on the radio for the first time. Since then, he has written songs for stars like Johnny Cash, George Strait, Mel McDaniel, John Anderson, and Jerry Lee Lewis. His accordion playing can be heard on albums with artists such as Alan Jackson, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, the Indigo Girls, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams Jr, and Steve Curtis Chapman, just to name a few. Bandera is the only local stop on his tour schedule; he will also be the marshall of the huge parade in New Orleans for the Mardi Gras celebration held there. Sonnier promises to give an awesome performance, one that party goers will rave about long after last call.
Last year, the party was an amazing success, making the Cowboy Mardi Gras the place for cowboys and creole lovers alike.
This year will be no different. Once the Gumbo has been eaten, the parade has finished and the costumes appraised, partiers will need to get ready for a foot stompin’, sweat breakin’, beer drinkin’ good time!
The 11th Street Cowboy Bar is located at 307 11th Street, Bandera, Texas. Visit their website at www.11thstreet cowboybar.com to get more information, read about the other great events they host and to find recommended accommodations in Bandera.