March 2, 2019 was a perfect day for a parade, as Pensacola enjoyed picture-perfect weather for the biggest party of the year, the 2019 Pensacola Grand Mardi Gras Parade.
The celebration got going hours before the parade’s official roll time of 2 p.m. Over on Spring Street, hundreds of floats and other parading groups began to line up as early as 9 a.m., anchoring spots in the parade for the more than 6,000 marchers, float riders and drivers who would participate. As has become the custom, line-up became Pensacola’s best block part, with krewes and civilians alike strolling the street enjoying the various floats’ music and socializing amongst old friends and new.
Meanwhile, along the parade route, fans were staking out their spots in hopes of gathering the most swag, as well as enjoying the festival atmosphere as well as food and drink from downtown’s many hospitality businesses.
Streets closed to traffic around 1 p.m., and anticipation built among the crowd as law enforcement vehicles led the parade onto the route starting at 2 p.m. Calling this Pensacola’s longest parade is definitely no stretch, as it took well more than two hours for the final float to roll off Spring Street and onto Garden Street to begin the route, traveling east on Garden before turning north on Palafox Street then making a U-turn at Wright Street, traversing all the way south to Main Street.
All along the way, hundreds of thousands of Pensacolians and visitors alike lined the streets, screaming and waving and doing anything they could to get the paraders’ attention in the hopes of being showered with beads, MoonPies, toys, cups and other throws. One thing is certain: Nobody left empty handed.
Along with attendees, a favorite throw target of paraders was WEAR ABC-3’s Bead Cam, set up in downtown’s center square at the intersection of Palafox and Garden streets, as float riders attempted to hit the camera square in the middle. WEAR’s live broadcast was also set up in the square, with anchors Bob Solarski, Allen Strum and April Baker commenting on the parade and interacting with the crowd and the paraders.
from Cat Country 98.7’s dance team performing a coordinated routine to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” to eye-catching floats and a hailstorm of throws, there was plenty to keep everyone entertained over the three-hour-plus parade.
After the floats cleared the road, many revelers headed to Seville Quarter, where DJs and live bands provided the soundtrack as the good times continued to roll, with krewes and spectators alike mingling and keeping the party going into the night.
Reporting by Julio Diaz. Photos by Phil Bailey.