Letters to the Editor

Mardi Gras redux? Never!

Mardi Gras Arrest during riot in San Luis Obispo in 2004.
Mardi Gras Arrest during riot in San Luis Obispo in 2004. The Tribune

It must be either a lack of institutional memory or nostalgia, but The Tribune’s suggestion that it might be cool to bring back Mardi Gras was jaw dropping. In the past, The Tribune wisely endorsed ending Mardi Gras. I know this because, as a city official, I worked on the Mardi Gras problem for over 10 years and communicated with The Tribune often. Here’s the short story:

SLO Mardi Gras started in the late ’70s as a small, local parade. However, over the next 25 years it grew into an out-of-control street bash, eventually attracting over 10,000 statewide party-tourists. This evolution was unstoppable despite great local efforts to save the good and tame the bad. We were no match for the internet and the allure of a four-day party (imagine the impact of social media today).

It wasn’t that Mardi Gras had become “too decadent.” It was dangerous. There were riots, property damage and injuries. Emergency room physician Steve Sainsbury said, “I dread Mardi Gras like no other event.” Hundreds of police officers were required and millions of taxpayer dollars were spent to get the Mardi Gras genie back in the bottle. It would be foolish to let it out again.

Ken Hampian, San Luis Obispo

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