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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -
While the good times have rolled through, the mission to find out what the beads, pageantry and spectacle of Mardi Gras means to Southwest Louisiana is still underway.
Mardi Gras Southwest Louisiana officials have partnered with the SWLA Convention and Visitors Bureau and McNeese State University to do an economic impact study.
"What we are hoping to see is the growth and the overall dollar signs that what it means to Southwest Louisiana," said Katie Harrington, Mardi Gras SWLA President.
The last time a Mardi Gras impact study was done in Southwest Louisiana was in 2004 before Hurricane Rita. According to Harrington, 2004 brought in $18.5-million.
"A lot has changed since then. In 2004, we had 46 Mardi Gras krewes. We now have over 60 and a lot more events," said Harrington.
McNeese's role in collecting the data was conducting surveys at all sanctioned events and area hotels. MSU Economics professor Dr. Daniel Groft said so far, they've collected more than 400 surveys. Groft said when looking at the preliminary findings, their biggest surprise is the amount of people coming in from outside the five-parish area.
"This information will allow us to get a better idea of the footprint Mardi Gras makes on the area and how to effectively market and reach out to people who are interested in our culture and Mardi Gras," said Angie Manning, SWLA Convention and Visitors Bureau Communications Director.
This year's 12th Night and Royal Gala events brought in more than 2,500 guests. The Gumbo Cookoff set a new record of more than 2,700 guests. Of the 46 teams competing in the cookoff - three were from Texas and two from Jeff Davis Parish. Harrington said even though the final figures haven't been tabulated, the estimated growth is a sign all the work and planning is worthwhile.
"Any time we have the parades, that requires us to shut down Ryan Street for several hours at a stretch. So if we know that it's drawing in people from all over and the economic impact is so substantial, it's a little bit easier to stomach shutting down a street for that many hours," said Harrington.
Ultimately, the study will help better market Southwest Louisiana's biggest party of the year.
"Once we know what the visitor is interested in and some of the comments they have, then we can move forward and say this is a really popular event - so how do we make it better or this event was at capacity - how do we make it bigger," explained Manning.
Groft said the final leg of the study is surveying the krewes of SWLA. He expects the study to be complete by the first part of April.