Gray skies and fickle rain couldn’t spoil the Mardi Gras parade on Panama City Beach. The parade started just as the rains stalled around 3:00PM. Hundreds of locals and tourists lined Front Beach Road and if you missed it, you missed a raucous celebration.
Floats by the Krewe of Dominique Youx, Red Hatters, Hofbrau Beer Garden and others cruised the strip, transforming the seasonally quiet road into a street party. On a route beginning at Gulf World Marine Park, the good times rolled down Front Beach Road to Pier Park where the party kept on rocking.
Beneath overcast, the parade kicked off in jubilant fashion with Arnold High School’s “Blue Thunder” marching band. Cheering crowds, narrowing a misty Front Beach Road on both sides, screamed and reached to catch beads. Many of the local businesses like Boardwalk Beach Resort and Royal American designed floats to dazzle onlookers. The weather didn’t seem to dampen any spirits or keep parade participants from enjoying their own.
Still, Panama City Beach’s Mardi Gras parade was an all-ages affair. With the Gulf Coast as a backdrop, children hoarded beads and seniors danced in the streets while brass bands played. There were jesters of all colors, faces hidden behind Venetian masks and marionettes, and there were pirates, lots of pirates (one in particular who resembled Jack Sparrow so closely people stopped for autographs and pictures). The celebratory costumes didn’t end with Mardi Gras tradition. Joining in the festivities, Hula girls danced on a tropical float, beer maids flung beads and so did a Krewe dressed in costumes I can only describe as Daniel Boone meets Tonto. There was even an Imperial Stormtrooper sighting.
In my many years as a resident of Panama City Beach, Saturday’s Mardi Gras was the most fun I’ve experienced at a parade of any sort. It was a blast, churning out enough smiles and laughter to make an otherwise gloomy afternoon an all-out street party. Attendance was astounding with estimates ringing to the tune of around 25,000. Hoards of people were everywhere and some reported times in excess of 30 minutes just leaving Pier Park after the event. One event organizer was quoted: “If it was this successful with crumby weather, imagine how it will be next year when the weather is great!”
Photos by Freda Columbus