Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Mardi Gras 101, or “I’m not from the Gulf Coast, and I think you all may have lost your minds….”
One of my husband’s first observations after we moved back to Pensacola was that “you people don’t need much of an excuse for a party.” I take that as a compliment but have also come to realize that some of our traditions can seem a bit odd if you didn’t grow up near the Gulf Coast.
Boiled down simply: Mardi Gras, or Carnival, is a celebratory season that kicks off after Epiphany (January 6th) and runs through Fat Tuesday (March 1st this year). The thought back in the day was to dedicate a season of eating and revelry so that people could get it out of their system before Lent, which is a season of fasting and penance.
This has been going on for thousands of years in some form or another, but French explorers marked the first Mardi Gras in the new world in 1699 near present-day New Orleans. Today, Mobile claims to have the oldest continual celebration, New Orleans claims the biggest, but of course, Pensacola is my favorite.
All of them involve festive parades, incredible costumes, tons of beads, king cake, and endless chances for a lot of fun!
There’s something about a baby in a cake?
King cake is a must! Typically, yes, there is a baby inside the cake. Which again- now that I type that out- sounds creepy. The religious symbolism involves baby Jesus and the three kings arriving to meet him on Epiphany. The tradition I learned as a kid is that whoever gets the baby will have good luck for the year. That person is also responsible for bringing the next king cake, which means cakes are in plentiful supply so it’s really a win-win. Regardless, remind kiddos to chew on these cinnamony rings of deliciousness carefully!
I will not, under any circumstance, try to tell you who has the best king cake. Seriously.
Somebody reading this is from Louisiana and will fight to the death that any cake made outside the state is inferior, somebody else will think cream cheese is an abomination, and somebody else’s grandma makes them better than any bakery in the world. This is just a quick guide on where to find king cakes here in town. Wherever you decide to try, give them a call ahead of time to be sure they have plenty in stock.
811 W Garden St, Pensacola
690 E Heinberg St, Pensacola
8649 Gulf Blvd, Navarre
5555 N Davis Highway, Pensacola
Available at Bailey’s Farmer’s Market – 4301 N. Davis Highway, Pensacola
2014 N 12th Ave
Order online, pick up Tuesdays – Saturday
6727 Caroline Street, Milton
701 Scenic Highway, Pensacola
5046 Bayou Blvd, Pensacola
Ok yes, I think my college roommate went to New Orleans for this one time…. I feel like that wasn’t exactly kid-friendly?
Like a lot of celebrations, parts of Mardi Gras are great for kids and parts are certainly more adult-focused. I don’t suggest taking your children to a parade after-party or trying to get them into a Krewe ball, but there are a lot of celebrations in town that will be a blast for the whole family.
When: Saturday, February 12th, 4pm
Where: Downtown Milton
When: Sunday, February 13th, 12pm – 4pm
Where: Garden Street between Jefferson and Tarragona Streets, Downtown Pensacola
Cost: Free to attend, suggested $10 donation to Pensacola Humane Society
Details: Garden Street will be closed to traffic with vendors and food trucks out, and there will be a parade of pups at 2pm. Guests (both human and pups) are encouraged to wear costumes!
When: Saturday, February 19th, 11am – 3pm
Where: Casino Beach Parking Lot, Pensacola Beach
Cost: People are free, pets are $5
Details: Anyone is welcome to walk or bring a mini float, but be in costume and bring your own throws!
When: Saturday, February 19th, 1pm – 3pm
Where: Navarre Beach
When: Friday, February 25th, 7:30pm
Where: Downtown Pensacola
Details: This is a fun nighttime event for the kids; all the floats are lit up and a lot of them look like pirate ships!
When: Saturday, February 26th, 2pm
Where: Downtown Pensacola
We came, we paraded, now we have SEVEN THOUSAND beads in the house!
I promise, your kids will have an innate ability to catch a suitcase worth of beads in about thirty minutes. Which is so fun to see and be a part of- until you get home and realize you need an extra room in the house for all the swag. Instead of risking your kids rummaging through the trash to find that one perfect purple strand they caught, you can donate beads to ARC Gateway. They run a wonderful program to sort and recycle the beads, then re-sell them for krewes to use in the future. It’s a fantastic way to cut down on waste and support an impactful program in our community. Find out more here.