Mardi Gras beginnings in Pensacola

Mardi Gras

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — In Northwest Florida, Mardi Gras celebrations are growing every year. As we take a look back at “Hidden Mardi Gras History on the Gulf Coast, we find out Pensacola wasn’t as late to the party as some believe.

“Pensacola and Mardi Gras are a thing. A lot of people think Pensacola was late to the game when it came to Mardi Gras, but we’re not,” said Nicole Stacey with Visit Pensacola.

In a city steeped in history, it’s not surprising to learn that even though Mardi Gras has only become a major celebration in the last 20 years or so. It’s been around a long time.

“Well, there are pictures of Pensacola Mardi Gras parading down historic Palafox Street from 1874, when they selected the first King Priscus of Pensacola. Mardi Gras in Pensacola took a break. I believe it was from about 1890 to around the turn of the century, and then they came back again on historic Palafox Street in Pensacola,” said Danny Zimmern with Pensacola Mardi Gras.

Those parades grow larger each year, said Zimmern, who’s organization oversees the celebration.

‘When we started this about 19 years ago, there were about 20 krewes in Pensacola and they’ve split and grown and added, so now there are about,” he added.

Unlike cities where different krewes parade nightly, Pensacola wraps all the krewes and the fun into one huge weekend leading up to Fat Tuesday.

“So we have three parades. We’ve got downtown Friday night, we have Saturday afternoon downtown then Pensacola Beach on Sunday. But then we’ll also have a pop-up parade on Tuesday in downtown, so we’re adding, we’re growing and we’ve very excited,” Stacey said.

And Friday’s Grand Mardi Gras Parade is just that.

“So this year we have, on our biggest day of the year in one parade, we have about 225 entries in the parade,” Zimmern said.

The evolution of Pensacola’s Mardi Gras has also taken on a philanthropic and community feel.

It really is about the krewes and the community coming together. The krewes have different interests. Most of them support a non-profit. And the payoff is not just to non-profits. In terms of economic impact, last year the entire weekend saw $21 million.

Evidence, says Mardi Gras leadership, that Pensacola’s Mardi Gras timing is right on time.

So let the good times roll in Pensacola! And, if we see each other on the parade route and someone’s throwing these beads. I might just have to fight ya for them!

Pensacola’s only illuminated nighttime parade is the Krewe of Lafitte Parade Saturday night.

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