Visit Pensacola Invites Families to Celebrate Mardi Gras Along its Historic Streets and Award-winning Beaches

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The official kick-off to this safe, family-fun-filled season of parades, parties and food begins Friday, Jan. 8, 2016.

Pensacola Mardi Gras.

You can hardly see the kids’ faces because there are so many beads around their necks after the parades.

The new year can only mean one thing in the Pensacola Bay Area: swarms of beads and MoonPies will soon be flying overhead while the sounds of laughter and music fill the streets.

Passionate krewes, extravagant parades, colorful costumes and decorated floats make up Mardi Gras in Pensacola. The settings are historic downtown and Pensacola’s beautiful beaches, and all events are family friendly, free and open to the public.

Pensacola Mardi Gras, Inc., organizes Pensacola’s month-long Mardi Gras season and “throws” all of its energy into a handful of top-notch celebrations and parades.

The season officially begins with a Pensacola Mardi Gras Kick-Off Celebration “parade in reverse”: a high-spirited celebration in the tradition of a 12th Night Party that takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 8. More than 40 krewes and their floats park along Pensacola’s waterfront. The floats don’t move, but the people gathered in the streets do, going from float to float to collect beads and other throws (thrown items). A Catholic priest blesses the floats, declaring them ready to participate in Mardi Gras. The celebration continues until about 11 p.m. when the krewes cut Pensacola’s first, official king cake.

“What makes Pensacola’s Mardi Gras so special is that we concentrate all our parades into one big weekend, and the Krewes pride themselves on their throws,” said Danny Zimmern, President of Pensacola Mardi Gras, Inc. “Pensacola's parades are known for the throws because of their quality and our Krewes toss out more of them. Many of Pensacola’s biggest and best Krewes have themes that celebrate Pensacola's heritage. The Krewes put a lot of time and effort into their floats, costumes and custom throws.”

“You can hardly see the kids’ faces because there are so many beads around their necks after the parades,” he said.

The “Krewe of Blues” hosts their 5th Annual Pin and Bead Festival, featuring a BBQ cook-off and bead swap, on Thursday, Jan. 17, in Historic Seville Square. Starting at 11 a.m., Mardi Gras krewes compete in cooking contests and carnival-type games to see who is crowned the mightiest of all, while music plays and beads fly.

Pensacola’s parades are packed into a single weekend, Feb. 5-7. Visitors can watch the spectacle of Pensacola’s only nighttime illuminated parade, the Krewe of Lafitte Parade, on Friday, Feb. 5, starting at 8 p.m. Lafitte features 12 floats, one live canon, and 250 pirates. The parade rolls through Downtown Pensacola along historic Palafox Street.

The Grand Mardi Gras Parade is the biggest, best-known event of the season, often attracting upward of 75,000 people. This year’s parade takes place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6, and follows the same route as the Krewe of Lafitte through downtown. Parade-goers enjoy the pageantry and theatre of more than 6,000 participants and more than 240 floats, ranging from ‘60s go-go dancers to Greek goddesses, parrotheads and pirates.

The parades wrap up on Sunday, Feb. 7, when locals let the good times roll, “island style,” along the sugar-white sand of Pensacola Beach. The Krewe of Wrecks Parade starts at 1 p.m. — just steps from the shoreline, on Via De Luna.

The Mardi Gras season comes to an end on Fat Tuesday, with the Priscus Procession. Priscus is a nighttime pub crawl through Downtown Pensacola with krewe kings and queens, krewe members and anyone else (21 and over) who wants to participate and experience the unique Mardi Gras pageantry in Pensacola.

“Mardi Gras in Pensacola continues to grow,” Zimmern said. “More people are realizing it’s safe, free and fun for the entire family. There are great parades, easy parking, and excited but well-behaved crowds. It’s hard to top parades on one of America’s Greatest Streets with a backdrop of the world’s best beaches.”

Mardi Gras celebrations aren’t limited to Pensacola and Pensacola Beach. Neighbors in Perdido Key have their own line-up of fun, unique celebrations — including the Pirate Flotilla on Saturday, Jan. 23.

The pillage begins at 10:45 a.m. when members of the Pirates of Lost Treasure Mardi Gras Krewe leave Holiday Harbor Marina and parade by boat — tossing beads and throws to people along the Intracoastal Waterway. The parade ends at the famous Flora-Bama beach bar with a blowout celebration and announcement of parade winners.

A complete listing of Mardi Gras events, times, and locations can be found at http://www.pensacolamardigras.com and http://www.visitperdido.com. To view special event deals and discount accommodations available to visitors throughout the Mardi Gras season, go to http://www.visitpensacola.com.

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About Visit Pensacola
Visit Pensacola leads the effort of economic development through tourism in Escambia County. Comprised of over 150 member businesses, Visit Pensacola’s mission is to position the Pensacola Bay Area as a premier year-round travel destination through tourism marketing, communications, meetings and conventions, reunions and group tour initiatives. For more information about Visit Pensacola, call 1-800-874-1234 (toll-free) or go to http://www.visitpensacola.com.

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Brooke Fleming

Katie King
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