Support for LAist comes from
True LA stories, powered by you
Stay Connected

Share This

Arts and Entertainment

Photos: How Venice Beach Celebrated Mardi Gras In The 1930s

Our reporting is free for everyone, but it’s not free to make.
LAist only exists with reader support. If you're in a position to give, your donation powers our reporters and keeps us independent.

In the 1930s, Venice Beach launched its own Mardi Gras celebrations, complete with parades and accompanying swimsuit beauty pageants. Although we're used to seeing folks throw beads and get into some drunken debauchery during Fat Tuesday, Venice had quirky and kind of wholesome events throughout those years.

In the black-and-white snapshots from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection, we see swimsuit-clad women donning huge bobbleheads (gearing up for the parade and the Miss California Bathing Beauty Contest) and washing dogs together for whatever reason, a woman happily stuck in a pillory, throwback costumes to the Old West days, and King Neptune emerging from the Venice Beach waters accompanied by some ladies.

The first Venice Mardi Gras celebration strangely took place from Aug. 16 to Aug. 18, 1935 instead of February when it's normally held throughout the world, according to historian Jeffrey Stanton. The three-day festival was modeled after New Orleans' celebrations, and was created by local businessmen who wanted to bring large crowds to Venice. According to Stanton:

It began with the arrival of King Neptune in an outrigger canoe followed by Queen Venetia's coronation and a royal procession along Ocean Front Walk. The queen read a proclamation commanding her subjects to engage in three days of fun and frivolity. The afternoon parade featured floats and costumed merrymakers wearing enormous plaster of paris heads that were manufactured in Arthur Reese's studio. Windward Avenue was roped off for a street carnival where wandering gondoliers entertained. There was an afternoon treasure hunt for children and an evening program of aquatic events on Saturday. Sunday's Miss California beauty pageant drew huge crowds, and a Mardi Gras Ball in the evening capped the celebration.

The popular pre-World War II event would continue every year until 1941 when it ended.
Support for LAist comes from

Over the last 14 years, Venice has continued on with the Mardi Gras tradition. Just last weekend, they held their 2015 parade with a brass band and a King and Queen's Ball.