Pensacola, Florida
Saturday May 25th 2019


Krewe’d Up

By Sydney Robinson

If you’ve somehow missed the purple, green and gold decor around town and all the local bakeries selling king cakes, you might need a reminder—it’s officially Mardi Gras time.

Better late than never, huh?

Mardi Gras is scheduled particularly late this year because the date is determined by Easter since it signals the beginning of Lent. But it’s finally time to let the good times roll, starting this Friday with the Krewe of Lafitte Illuminated Parade.

And if you’re tired of sitting on the sidelines and not catching any fancy beads (looking at you, Mardi Gras 2018), maybe it’s time for you to form your own krewe or join an established one.

Though places like New Orleans and Mobile boast the largest and oldest Mardi Gras events respectively, it seems as if Pensacola may be making a run for the title of most approachable. That is, if you are an eager partier looking to make your crew of friends into a real-life krewe, you can still do so with relative ease.

According to Danny Zimmern, president of Pensacola Mardi Gras Inc., all you technically need to begin your own krewe is a few friends, some cash and willingness to deal with a little paperwork.

“You could get a group of a few friends together, pay your entry fee, get insurance and get in the parade and be a Mardi Gras krewe. There are no rules to make a krewe. It’s what the organizers want them to be.”

It’s actually as simple as that.

If you do decide to make your own krewe one year, you will be joining approximately 6,000 Pensacola-area residents who parade up and down the streets of downtown and on the beach yearly.

No friends? No cool theme idea? No problem.

Those interested in getting into the local Mardi Gras scene can also opt to join one of the 90-plus krewes already in operation. Each has their own rules, their own dress code and their own reason for the season.

Zimmern points out that while some krewes are easier to join, others have a more selective process.

“There are some krewes that are very hard to get into. They can be very exclusive and very expensive with entree fees. There’s applications, rules and dress codes.”

Of course, for some, the dress code is half of the fun.

One of the most well-dressed krewes around town is the Krewe of Gatsby Girls. Their theme requires them to channel Daisy Buchanan with pearls, beads and other symbols of 1920s-era decadence.

Downtown bar owner Katie Garrett is currently one of the krewes’ 130 members and was a founding member when they formed in 2014.

“Being a Pensacola native, Mardi Gras was always a fun weekend to head downtown with friends,” said Garrett. “My favorite part of parade weekend was walking down the lineup and seeing all the floats and krewe members letting loose for a few days.”

Garrett says she was recruited to be a founding member of the organization and had very unique criteria for joining.

“When I was approached about joining Gatsby, the very first question I asked was, ‘What will the attire be?’ Her answer, ‘Mostly pearls, fur, sequins, etc.’ My response—‘Where do I sign up?’”

Another woman-only, theme-heavy krewe is Krewe of Hip Huggers. Their focus is on female fellowship and groovy 1960s-mod attire.

“In 2009, I chose to join Krewe of Hip Huggers because of the friendships that I had with existing krewe members,” krewe Social Media Chair Whitney Fike told Inweekly.

Like Garrett, Fike enjoys the strong fashion theme that drives her krewe.

“We host our annual Krewe of Hip Huggers Ball each year, and it’s decorated with all things ‘60s and mod related—like flashy rings, peace signs and go-go boots. Our togetherness does not end when Mardi Gras season is over, as we host events and meetings throughout the year to bring our krewe closer and form bonds we would have not had otherwise,” Fike said.

While casual attendees of Mardi Gras are familiar with the parties and parades, they’re probably less familiar with the more philanthropic angle of the krewes.

“Almost all krewes [in Pensacola] have a charity or nonprofit portion of their mission,” said Zimmern, “like breast cancer or Manna Food Pantry. It’s up to each krewe to pick a passion. There are several krewes whose mission it is to help all nonprofits. They go to events and volunteer; they go buy tables at formal events. The krewes here do all sorts of things,” he said.

For the Gatsby Girls, that focus has most often been on children.

“Every year at our annual Speakeasy Ball, we give a portion of the proceeds to a different local nonprofit,” said Garrett.

Past recipients have been Gulf Coast Kid’s House, Ronald McDonald House of NWFL and more.

The Hip Huggers, too, are investing in children on the Gulf Coast.

“This year, we adopted Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida as our not-for-profit,” said Fike. “Our krewe members helped ‘littles’ before school started by purchasing backpacks and back-to-school supplies and around the holidays, collecting winter weather gear like coats, gloves and shoes. It has been rewarding to see the impact we can give to the community.”

Fike says outside of the charitable aspect of her krewe, it is the close bond she has formed with her fellow Hip Huggers that makes it all worthwhile.

“The women in the Krewe of Hip Huggers are some of the most caring, giving, inspirational and supportive women,” she said.

For Garrett, the yearly tradition of Mardi Gras with her Gatsby Girls a special one, and she encourages anyone curious to give it a try.

“If you have always debated joining a krewe, do it. Try it for a year at least. I never thought I would be a ‘krewe type of person,’ but I have truly enjoyed being a part of an organization that dresses up and throws a party to make a difference in our community,” Garrett said.



OFFICIAL MARDI GRAS PRE-PARTY WITH NFL GUEST BARTENDERS 5-8 p.m. Perfect Plain Brewing Co., 50 E. Garden St.
KREWE OF LAFITTE MARDI GRAS PARADE 6:30 p.m. Spring and Garden Streets.

MARDI GRAS PARTY ON THE PALAFOX BALCONY 1:30-5:30 p.m. $45. So Gourmet, 407-D S. Palafox.
PENSACOLA GRAND MARDI GRAS PARADE 1-5 p.m. Spring and Garden Streets.

LAISSEZ LES BONS TEMPS ROULER AT JACKSON’S 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Jackson’s Steakhouse, 400 S. Palafox.
KREWE OF WRECKS MARDI GRAS PARADE 2 p.m. Via de Luna Drive, from Avenida 10 to Casino Beach parking lot, Pensacola Beach.

FAT TUESDAY POP-UP PARADES & PRISCUS Parades start at 4:30 p.m. Crowing of King and Queen at 7 p.m.
MARDI GRAS FAT TUESDAY STREET PARTY 5 p.m. Palafox and Government Streets.