A pool of partygoers dressed like clowns, lions and acrobats flooded Cane Bay Saturday afternoon for the annual Krewe de Croix Mardi Croix Parade.
The event was started in 2002 by New Orleans natives Tom and Dory Tiblier, nowe deceased, according to Val Stiles, Krewe de Croix spokesperson. The Tibliers founded Krewe de Croix to sponsor the event, which they thought would be a great way to celebrate a Crucian version of Mardi Gras on St. Croix.
“It’s great to promote positive things on the island,” Stiles said.
The theme of the 12th annual Mardi Croix parade was “Under the Big Top,” a circus extravaganza. The street was packed from La Valle down to Cane Bay with eager bystanders dressed in colorful outfits. Some sat on lawn chairs, some sat on empty paint buckets and some relaxed on the silky beach sand.
Rock ‘n’ roll, Soca and circus music blared down the street, but it took a while for the entries to hove into view. The parade began with motorcyclists charging down the road with the Virgin Islands and United States flags rippling in the air behind their bikes. A group of bicyclists followed with their bikes decorated with bright streamers. Violet “Anne” Golden, this year’s grand marshal, waved to the crowd while throwing beads to crowd.
A set of youngsters on donkeys galloped down the road, followed by the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center, which came down the street accompanied by the song “Who let the Dogs Out?”
Moises Carmona, St. Croix Animal Welfare Center spokesperson, said this was the first time the center participated in the event. He said the community supported the center during the Dominican Republic parade by donating funds, and he hoped the generosity would continue during the Mardi Croix.
“We came here to raise funds for the animal shelter,” Carmona said. “Although the government assists us, it is at a low cost, we are in a crisis.”
The 3 Ring Circus was the crowd pleaser. The entry was filled with members dressed like brightly garbed clowns, ringmasters, lions and other circus related themes.
The majority of the eight entries threw colorful beads and candy, and a few poured liquor in the mouths of crowd members. Vendors assembled across Eat at Cane Bay restaurant, selling local food, drinks and souvenirs. One vendor had the line in loops with its different flavored shish kabobs ranging from tofu to barbeque butterfly shrimp.
The parade came to a close with the Gentlemen of Jones troop dancing to Machel Montano songs, but Sloan Bonaparte hoped the celebration could last all night.
“It’s just an amazing feeling being here,” Bonaparte said.
Bonaparte has been coming out to the Mardi Croix for years, and loves the fact that the celebration continues to be a huge hit. While Mardi Croix can’t really compare to the Mardi Gras celebrations in Louisiana, she still called this year’s Mardi Croix “awesome.” She said one advantage of Mardi Croix is the having the event near Cane Bay Beach because if someone is tired or hot “you can dive on in if ya have to.”
The parade entries were judged for creativity and design. The 3 Ring Circus were the grand prize winner. First place went to the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center, second to Above the Cliff, and Gentlemen of Jones came in third. All of the winners received a trophy made by Jan Mitchell of Mitchell Larsen Studio.
Stiles said the parade “was a huge success.” With the economy still struggling with the loss of the Hovensa refinery, she believes 2014 will be the year for change on St. Croix.
Mardi Croix is celebrated the Saturday before Fat Tuesday – traditionally the last night for excess before Ash Wednesday opens in the church season of Lent, when the faithful make sacrifices to prepare themselves spiritually for Easter. The Mardi Croix is one of the events which support upcoming Krewe de Croix activities such as the hot sauce competition, rib cook off and dog parade.