By Jacqueline Miles
Friday afternoon people took to the streets in downtown Pensacola to begin the celebration of Mardi Gras. Beginning at 2 pm approximately 50 floats and people in decoratively dressed costumes walked the streets throwing beads, moon pies, candy, and stuffed toys to the crowd.
Saturday afternoon, approximately 65 floats participated in the parade as a crowd of estimated 1500+ lined the streets of downtown Pensacola to receive the goodies that were thrown from the floats as costumed characters walking handed out Mardi Gras cups, hoola hoops, toys, beads and more.
Mardi Gars is a tradition that could be traced to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons. From there, the traditional revelry of “Boeuf Gras”, or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies.
On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Ssieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, and named it “Pointe du Mardi Gras” when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. Bienville also established “Fort Louis de la Louisiane” (which is now Mobile) in 1702. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s very first Mardi Gars.
In 1870, Mardi Gras second Krewe, the Twelfth Night Revelers, was formed. This is also the first recorded account of Mardi Gras “throws.”
1872 was the year that a group of businessmen invented a King of Carnival, Rex, to preside over the first daytime parade. To honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff, the businessmen introduced Romanoff’s family colors of purple, green and gold as Carnival’s official colors. Purple stands for justice, gold for power, and green for faith. This was also the Mardi Gras season that Carnival’s improbable anthem, “If Ever I Cease to Love,” was cemented, due in part to the Duke’s fondness for the tune.
Today Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout the world. Known for its extravagant balls, and high degree of parties, the event was began so that the citizens could get their celebrations out of their system to prepare for “Lent” (a time of fasting) to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s crucifixion and Resurrection.