GALVESTON, Texas -

The largest Mardi Gras celebration in Texas kicks off Friday in Galveston, marking the start of carnival season with headliner concerts, bigger parades and plenty of bead throwing.

Festivities will begin at 5 p.m. Friday with a Party Gras! Parade followed by the George P. Mitchell Mardi Gras Award Ceremony and Parade. At 8 p.m., more than 2,000 umbrella dancers will parade the streets at the Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade, stopping in front of The Tremont House to dance the Hokey Pokey under the famous Mardi Gras arch. Country music group The Cadillac Three
will headline Friday performances with a 10 p.m. concert. All activities on Friday will be held in the Mardi Gras entertainment district in downtown Galveston.

Saturday features five parades throughout the day, including the popular Mystic Krewe of Aquarius Kick Off Parade at noon and the Krewe of Gambrinus "Lights Up the Night" Parade at 6 p.m. Both parades will be a mile longer this year, with a new route traveling along the Seawall and then down 25th Street into the entertainment district. At 5:30 p.m., country rock star Uncle Kracker will give a headline performance on the Bud Light Stage in Saengerfest Park at 23rd and Strand.

Sunday is Family Gras! at Mardi Gras! Galveston with free admission and family-friendly activities in honor of two area children's charities. Sponsored by Moody National Bank, Family Gras! will start at noon, featuring live music, two kids parades and the Jr. Jester Jaunt 1K Run/Walk. Donations will be taken at the gate to benefit The Sunshine Kids and Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Regular admission to the Mardi Gras entertainment district is $17 at the gate. After Sunday, Mardi Gras! Galveston festivities will continue next Friday, Feb. 28 through March 4.

For a parade schedule and parade routes, visit MardiGrasGalveston.com.

List of first weekend major events:

FRIDAY, FEB. 21
5 p.m. Party Gras! Parade (Entertainment District)
5 p.m. Boss Street Brass Band on the Bud Light Stage (Entertainment District)
5 p.m. ALL DAY DJ Performances Begin on the Jagermeister Stage (Entertainment District)
5:30 p.m. George P. Mitchell Mardi Gras Award Ceremony (The Tremont House)
7 p.m. George P. Mitchell Mardi Gras Parade (Entertainment District)
7 p.m. Justin Van Sant on the Bud Light Stage (Entertainment District)
8 p.m. Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade (Entertainment District)
10 p.m. Krewe da' Yaga's Parade (Entertainment District)
10 p.m. The Cadillac Three the Budweiser Stage (Entertainment District)

SATURDAY, FEB. 22
11 a.m. Jolly Jester Jaunt 5K Fun Run (Entertainment District)
12 p.m. Mystic Krewe of Aquarius Mardi Gras Parade (Seawall & Entertainment District)
12 p.m. Mambo Jazz Kings on the Bud Light Stage (Entertainment District)
1 p.m. ALL DAY DJ Performances Begin on the Jagermeister Stage (Entertainment District)
3 p.m. Clear Channel Rock the Block Parade (Entertainment District)
3:30 p.m. Will Makar on the Bud Light Stage (Entertainment District)
4 p.m. Zaniest Golf Cart & Art Car Parade (Entertainment District)
5:30 p.m. Uncle Kracker on the Bud Light Stage (Entertainment District)
6 p.m. Krewe of Gambrinus Parade (Seawall & Entertainment District)
7:30 p.m. Olivia Lane on the Bud Light Stage (Entertainment District)
10 p.m. The Line Up on the Bud Light Stage (Entertainment District)
10:30 p.m. Build Your Own Krewe Parade (Entertainment District)

SUNDAY, FEB. 23
11:45 a.m. Kevin Anthony on the Bud Light Stage (Entertainment District)
12 p.m. Jr. Jester Jaunt 1K Run/Walk (Entertainment District)
12 p.m. 28th Annual Mardi Gras Ball for Special People (Moody Gardens Convention Center)
1 p.m. Sunshine Kids Parade (Entertainment District)
2:30 p.m. Bilge Pumps on the Bud Light Stage (Entertainment District)
3 p.m. Shriners Hospitals for Children Galveston Parade (Entertainment District)