How Mardi Gras is a moneymaker for Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge isn’t New Orleans, where Carnival’s economic impact accounts for more than 3% of the city’s GDP, according to a 2023 study conducted by Tulane University economist Toni Weiss.

But the Baton Rouge metropolitan area benefits from a grassroots Carnival scene that gives participants an option or add-on to that of the Big Easy.

The largest Mardi Gras event for Baton Rouge is undoubtedly the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade.

“About 200,000 people show up, and you’ve got 75 floats with 40 people per float spending probably between $300 and $1,500 on throws,” says Robert King, president of event organizer the Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe in Louisiana. “We spend around $40,000 in liability insurance, and we put on a ball with 3,500 people at $50 a ticket.”

King, who has participated in the event since 1984, can also rattle off its multiplier effect.

Krewes rent or buy floats and festoon them with lavish decorations. The parade’s king, queen and grand marshal throw pre-event parties. Hotel occupancy increases with many guests (including King himself) staying the weekend in downtown Baton Rouge. Restaurants feel the spike, as do the caterers, liquor stores and supermarkets that provision Spanish Town house parties.

Business Report’s latest cover package takes a deep dive into Carnival in the capital, chronicling its history, krewes and impact on the city. Read it here. Send comments to [email protected].