The 10th annual Mardi Croix parade at Cane Bay started on a somber note Saturday. Parade co-founder Tommy Tiblier was to serve as this year’s Grand Marshal, but he passed away earlier in the week. To honor his memory, the seat of honor in the parade’s lead car remained empty save for a banner that read “Thank you Tom and Dory for Ten Years.”
“They put their heart and soul into this,” said Jeanette Lorenzen, a Krewe de Croix member, referring to Tiblier and his wife Dory, who passed away over a year ago. “We were hoping against hope that [Tommy] would be able to be here one more time, but he wasn’t.”
Krewe members were emphatic that Tiblier would want the party to continue without him, and everyone who turned out Saturday morning was eager to oblige. People began staking out their spots on Cane Bay beach hours before the parade started. Children played in the surf while their parents lounged on the beach waiting for the festivities to begin. Food and souvenir vendors packed the side of the road, giving the beach a carnival vibe.
The event attracted all types. Harlan Hyde of Norwich, Conn., stumbled upon the event while driving with his wife along the north shore. He said he’d never been to a Mardi Gras parade before, but he picked up the basics quickly. “Well I can see there’s a lot of street vendors and music,” he said. “And, you know, a lot of rum.”
Lisa Christensen-Harris, Amy Crespo, and Milgie Stridiron of St. Croix said they had plenty of experience celebrating Mardi Gras, attending previous parades on the island, and in Louisiana. They said that nothing compares to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but that Mardi Croix had a Caribbean charm that celebrations in the states couldn’t match.
“Much better weather and more relaxed too,” said Stridiron.
“And you got the ocean right here,” added Crespo. “You can’t get a better view than this.”
The parade kicked off around noon. The theme this year was “Caribbean Western,” so the parade was filled with cowboy hats and boots. A group calling themselves the Posse de Croix won this year’s float competition by fielding a covered wagon. Members of the Posse followed behind riding wooden seahorses and dancing to country western tunes like “Cotton-eyed Joe.”
While the judges looked at the floats, people in the crowd were more interested in what was being thrown. Plastic beads were common, of course, but some floats got more creative. One group tossed packaged moon pies while another handed out painted coconuts. The Gentlemen of Jones had the most popular offering, however, passing out cups of rum to a few lucky people in the crowd as their float brought up the rear of the parade.
The crowd then poured into the surrounding restaurants, each with their own band to keep the party going into the evening.
After the parade, Lorenzen deemed the event a success and worthy of Tom and Dory’s legacy. “I think they were looking over our shoulder today,” she said.