top of page

History of Yachty Gras, America’s Largest Mardi Gras Boat Parade

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

Simple Beginnings

Back in 1999, Bay Area Houston residents Roy and Leslie Olsen wanted to throw a Mardi Gras party. Rather than simply wearing some beads and eating King cake, the couple found a more creative way to celebrate. The Olsens got some of their boating friends together and held Bay Area Houston’s first Mardi Gras boat parade by the Kemah Boardwalk. They decorated their boats, played music, and tossed beads to onlookers while partying out on the water.

The following year, the Olsens got even more boaters to participate, and the whimsical boat parade continued to grow. One of the early participants was Dr. Maurine Howard, who won an award for her decorated boat in 2002. That same year, Maurine came on board as the Executive Director of Yachty Gras to help facilitate the burgeoning event, and make it something everyone in the area could enjoy and be a part of.