Florida loves parties and Mardi Gras is a perfect excuse. On that famous Fat Tuesday, every year, the streets of Dunedin, Florida become a beloved spot for thousands of people to gather and celebrate this peculiar holiday.
Like many other raucous and wild holidays, Mardi Gras, also known as Carnival, is associated with a religious holiday with overtones of devoutness and self-control. Mardi Gras is celebrated the Tuesday before the season of Lent begins, which, of course, always starts off on a Wednesday. This tradition is very old, according to some, over 1000 years. When the transformation into a wild drinking, dancing, and celebrating festival began is not completely clear. In any event, thanks to the festive nature of the event, Mardi Gras has spread far beyond those who observe Lent.
Celebrated in locations all over the world, Mardi Gras is perhaps most famous in Rio de Jainero, Brazil. A tour of most Latin American countries during the month of February will find you amid Carnival celebrations for weeks at a time. Florida isn’t one to be left behind when it comes to celebrations. In our active community here surrounding Tampa Bay, you will almost always find one event or another occurring. With the cities of Tampa, St Petersburg, and Clearwater pitching in alongside nearly a dozen other small beach communities, it is unusual to go any stretch of time without an event on a calendar somewhere. As you can imagine, Mardi Gras is no exception.
For the area of Tampa Bay, the best Mardi Gras event occurs in Dunedin, Florida. This small town on the Florida West Coast has a popular uptown area that is home to some very active pubs, diners, and gift shops. Dunedin puts on festivals all year long and they know how to do it right. For Mardi Gras each year, they hold a parade through the center of town.
While the parade was the main attraction, the streets of Dunedin came alive to support the event. Shops were open wide and bustling while the street were lined with vendors. Illuminated paraphernalia sold best, with light up swords, necklaces, and hats being the main fare. Food vendors were out in force, but of course, with Dunedin’s great restaurants, you had no shortage of chow. Interestingly enough, Mardi Gras also seemed like an event to bring your dog to. They were everywhere.
When the parade finally rolled through town, the crowds who were already in party mode, lit up as the “floats” went by. Why the parentheses? While there were a few vehicles that appeared to be traditional parade floats, most were some combination of vehicles, lights, and people. Still, quite a few of them were nearly tall enough to hit the traffic lights. With music blaring and the crowds screaming, the people on board threw the traditional Mardi Gras beads out to the eager spectators.
The evening ended all too soon, it seemed. The last float passed by and the crowds picked up their chairs and headed off in different directions through the brick roads and byways of Dunedin, done with one event and perhaps looking forward to the next.