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Tower Mardi Gras Parade: It’s Good to be King!

IN THE February 24 ISSUE

FROM THE 2018 Articles,
andArts & Entertainment,
andMallory Moad

by Mallory Moad

“I need to talk to you.” Under certain circumstances those words would be a source of anxiety, but not this time. This was Tower District Marketing Committee Director, Felix Muzquiz’s response to a question about the annual Tower District Mardi Gras Parade. The topic in need of discussion was my having been selected to be King of this year’s festivities.

In 2015, I attended over a dozen parades throughout the Central San Joaquin Valley, but I never participated beyond being a journalist and enthusiastic observer. Well, things were about to change for this lover of such pageantry. Not only was I going to be in a parade, I was being given a title! Hot diggity!

Serving as King turned out to be more than a simple one-time appearance. It was a lengthy process with multiple steps. Once I had recovered from the initial surprise, the first thing that came to mind was “What am I going to wear??” Finding the answer to that question was Step One.

The theme of the parade was Welcome To Toon Town and would be a tribute to all things cartoon (in movies and on television). The Mardi Gras monarch has always been a king, with the exception of a few times when a couple had been chosen to reign as a King/Queen tag team. I would be the first woman to fulfill the responsibilities solo. I decided right away that I would honor tradition and be King, not Queen. Since I own a tuxedo with tails, I gave serious consideration to which iconic cartoon character could pull off a black tie look. From that perspective, it was a no-brainer: Mickey Mouse. What becomes a legend most?


Mallory Moad as King Mickey Mouse

Of course, I would need a crown, but we’ll get to that later.

As King, I faced a crucial decision in Step Two. Whom would I choose to be in my entourage? How would I go about assembling a group of revelers who would accompany my float and celebrate my Royal Highness by tossing beads to the masses? I started by thinking about friends I enjoy spending time with, who make me laugh, with whom I have worked on various projects over the years and who would be fearlessly willing to play dress-up. My final list was an eclectic mix of performers, artists, a retired college professor, a costume connoisseur, and a group of dancers from Fresno Swing Dance (kind of a package deal).


Aileen Imperatrice as Pocohantas and Jill Bedford as a Minion

OK, I’ve got my gear, I’ve got my peeps – what about that crown? Hold your horses, I’m getting to that.

Three weeks before the 21st Annual Tower District Mardi Gras parade, one thing became clear. It takes a village to put together a krewe. This was Step 3. We worked together on costumes and helped each other find things like props and makeup. I created a Facebook page to keep everyone in the loop.

We made deliveries and served as taxi drivers. I was offered, and accepted, the use of a rhinestone-embellished bowtie that has special meaning for its owner. Remember all those things we learned in kindergarten about sharing and getting along? We were putting them to excellent use in real time.

With two weeks to go until showtime, I was ready to start working on that crown, Step Four. Nothing says king like bling so my royal headwear had to be one big, glitzy, eye-popping fashion statement. It had to be grand and glamorous and have Mickey Mouse ears to boot. Sequins! Yes, that’s the ticket! I needed sequins and where better to find them in all sizes and colors than our old friend, Ebay!


Bling for the King

That’s when things got a little crazy.

Guaranteed delivery by Friday turned into no delivery eight days later. The ticking of the clock was getting louder. A supportive friend (and former neighbor) took pity on my situation and generously gifted me with spangles from a more reliable online source. They arrived on the appointed date, followed the next day by the sequins I had ordered ten days earlier, the ones that had gone AWOL. Oh, my.

Tick. Tick. Tick…

There was no time to waste and with my scissors, craft foam, and special sequin-sticking glue, I went to work creating the biggest, bestest, most Mickey Mouseiest crown ever! I had sequins, and I was going to use them! I glued sequins while listening to music and watching TV. I spilled sequins on the floor and tracked them everywhere. My house looked like the aftermath of a disco apocalypse but my crown – the King’s crown – was going to be awesome.

The day before the big event, I took inventory, Step Five. Tuxedo jacket pressed and pants hemmed? Check. Bowtie, gloves, and sponge nose? Check. Crown? Double check. Last minute messages were sent, phone calls made, and orders placed. I was ready to rule Toon Town!

And that’s what I did with a little help from my friends: Yosemite Sam, Pocahontas, Pinocchio, Geppetta (yep, this Geppetto was a girl), Betty Boop, Tia Rosita and Hector from Coco, Carl from Up, Mr. Toad, a Minion, and a dancing Mickey Mouse Club. On that sunny February afternoon, I merrily traveled down Olive Avenue on my colorful float, accompanied by my enthusiastic entourage of Disney darlings and wascally wacky loony toons. I waved to my devoted subjects and greeted them with “laissez les bon temps rouler!” Everyone had a glorious time that nothing could put a damper on – not late-arriving craft supplies, not misplaced car keys (mine), not even the over-enthusiastic parade attendee who invaded our group. Let the good times roll? You’d better believe it! That’s Step Six.


Lisa Fialho as Tia Rosita and Gino Hernandez as Hector, photo by Lisa Fialho

Maybe someday I will be invited to be part of a future Mardi Gras King’s entourage. I think I would be real asset. I already know all the steps.


Lauren Mae Nikkel getting ready to dance

My name is Mallory Moad, and it’s good to be King.

Mallory Moad is a visual/performance artist, vocalist in the jazz band Scats on The Sly and a proud Central San Joaquin Valley native.

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