by Mallory Moad
My name is Mallory Moad and I love parades. This year, 2015, I will be embracing my passion for pageantry by attending as many parades in the Central Valley as possible.
The 18th Annual Tower District Mardi Gras parade was the first on my list. In 1996, Felix Muzquiz, Brian Kenney Fresno, and Kenny Young were inspired to produce a Mardi Gras parade in Fresno when they attended a seminar on parade organization. Although there had been other events in the Tower District that related to the holiday, there was no parade so this creative, ambitious crew set out to make up for that deficiency. Unlike many traditional Mardi Gras parades in other parts of the US, which tend to be somewhat R-rated events, this parade has always been appropriate for all ages. Many families line up for a good place along the route, and lots of kids (LOTS of kids) participate in the parade itself.
So on Sunday, February 15 I took my place on the curb and watched, cheering and clapping, as over 450 participants danced, drove, rolled, strolled, rode and hula-hooped their way down Olive Avenue in Fresno’s historic Tower District. The theme of this year’s parade was Jungle Safari and opening the show were members of the Pedal Junkies bicycle club, dressed as animals, including a lobster. A lobster. Riding a bicycle. I knew I was in for a good time.
Every Mardi Gras parade has a king and local writer/actor/film maker, Marcel Nunis was wearing the crown this time. Actually, he was wearing his signature pith helmet topped with a crown, but that’s beside the point. He looked absolutely fabulous. Escorted by his court of beautiful ladies dressed in colorful sarongs and dapper gentlemen wearing – you got it – pith helmets, King Marcel and company ruled with elegance and style in an affectionate, whimsical salute to his Malaysian ancestry.
Music is an important element in every parade and this one had plenty. Dixieland jazz, Zydeco and blues from Viper City Brass, Lonesome Jem and the Lunatics, and the Mofo Party Band kept everyone moving. And it wouldn’t be Mardi Gras if the audience didn’t get pelted with beads and we certainly did. I came home wearing enough trinkets to accessorize my entire neighborhood. But there were candy and stuffed animals in the mix, too. I was fortunate enough to catch a cuddly plush puppy tossed from the Neighborhood Thrift float. Throw in a pirate ship, smoky zombie hideaway, and gussied-up Volkswagens from the Fresno Deutschlanders, and you’ve got yourself a grand finale.
And so begins my crazy, colorful journey. I look forward to seeing how other communities celebrate their individuality with the time-honored tradition of parades throughout the year, and to sharing my experience with you. More good times await – a lobster on a bicycle is just the tip of the iceberg!