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The 2019 Mardi Gras season kicked off with a bang on Jan. 5, as Pensacola Mardi Gras Inc. presented the annual Kick-off Celebration in the streets of downtown Pensacola.

The event is known for featuring a “parade in reverse,” with dozens of krewes parking their floats along Palafox Place and Government Street to allow pedestrians to get a close-up view in the closed streets. With the streets already lit for the holidays, the colorful and illuminated floats made downtown Pensacola shine with an effervescent glow, starting the season in style.

The evening began with an opening ceremony at Seville Quarter, allowing an opportunity for those krewes who did not bring their floats to the event to receive recognition from the Town Crier, T. Bubba Bechtol, and the blessing of the season from Father Nick Schumm.

At the close of the ceremony, a second line parade headed out into the crisp January night to lead the procession out to the floats, with a stop at each for proclamation and blessings.

Once the end of the route was reached at Palafox Place and Garden Street, the procession doubled back to the corner of Palafox and Government Street, where krewe royalty lined the steps of the Old Escambia Courthouse — now Artel Gallery — to witness the cutting of the season’s first King Cake, provided by Bluejay Bakery.

As the sweet treat was distributed to the crowd, the party continued into the night, as the good times officially started rolling for another year.

Reporting by Julio Diaz. Photos by Phil Bailey.