Pensacola Mardi Gras

Pensacola Mardi Gras
A number of cities and regions in the United States have notable Mardi Gras celebrations. Most trace their Carnivals to French or Spanish colonization. Pensacola Mardi Gras is one of the oldest organized Carnival celebrations in the United States. The Carnival season in Pensacola, Florida usually kicks off on Three Kings’ Day but the main Parade is held on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday.

The first official celebration of Carnival in Pensacola was held in 1874 when a group of men established the town’s first carnival society, the Knights of Priscus. During the first couple decades the Carnvial was unorganized. Everything changed in 1900 when the Clerks Union took over the celebration and formed the Pensacola Carnival Association.

Pensacola Mardi Gras is one of the three largest Carnival celebrations in Florida, the other two being Fiesta Tropicale of Hollywood and Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando Florida. Unlike many other Carnivals, Pensacola Mardi Gras is known for a more family friendly environment. Its krewes (Carnival societies) are smaller than in New Orleans or Mobile, the names of some krewes are puns on the names of historic krewes in Mobile and New Orleans.

The Carnival of Pensacola hosts three major parades that take place on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Despite the Carnival’s name, no parades are held on Mardi Gras itself but there is a celebration. The festivities also include masquerade balls organized by krewes throughout January and February. Most balls are held by older krewes that do not parade.

The highlight of Pensacola Mardi Gras is the Grand Parade held in Downtown Pensacola on Carnival Saturday. It features most of the city’s krewes and has over 6,000 participants. The parade has floats presented by numerous different krewes. A typical parade unit consist of one float and no more than 20 walkers. The participants toss beads, coins, candies and moon pies into the crowd. The festivities are presided over by King and Queen Priscus.

Pensacola Mardis Gras

Photo: McKenzie Oerting




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