by Melanie Camp
Parting the crowd along the Boardwalk, the 16th annual Venice Mardi Gras Parade twirled south following The Mudbug Brass Band and Parade founder Miss Jessica, from the Venice Ale House at 2 Rose Ave., to Surfside in the old Danny’s at 23 Windward Ave., on Saturday, February 11.
Venice locals, the Hart’s, Pink, her husband Corey, and their two children were spotted watching the start of the parade. “I asked them if they were going to join the parade, they were very nice, but said they weren’t,” neighbor Deanna Navakutu, told Yo! Venice. Maybe next year?
Each year the Parade has seen more and more people join the glittered gang that dances down the boardwalk following a New Orleans style Mardi Gras band. Venice’s first parade took place in 1935 the more recent rendition of the event began after 9/11. Rallying fellow Venice creatives, Miss Jessica decided to hold a Mardi Gras Parade “as a way for our artistic, creative friends to have some fun and say, ‘they can’t take away our freedom to have fun.” From there it grew to a much larger community event.
Former Mardi Gras Queen, Theo VonHoffman told Yo! Venice more people than ever marched in this year’s parade. The theme, Wild at Heart, inspired a tribe of animal costumes from foxes to zebras. Others, dressed in more traditional Mardi Gras attire wearing purple jackets and bejeweled masks.
In past years, Danny’s hosted the Mardi Gras after party. Craig Kelly, the owner of Surfside, the new bar and restaurant in the old Danny’s space, told Yo! Venice the parade represents the essence of Venice. “Wacky, wonderful, loving people. We’re honored to be carrying the torch from past years in the same building where Danny’s was, now Surfside,” he said.
The Parade is a celebration of the freedom of expression those living in Venice are lucky enough to experience. Throwing beads is a sign of gratitude and generosity in a society where people mostly take and think only about themselves.
“Love is the most important thing, sharing is the most important, giving is the most important thing,” said Miss Jessica. And that is what Venice Mardi Gras is all about.