The eighth annual Mardi Gras Barkus Parade, a festive celebration of dogs and the people who cherish them, wound down Water Street Saturday afternoon as it were Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday.
In fact, the event organizers, the Mystic Krewe of Salty Barkers, renamed it the “BourBone Street” parade, and it lived up to it.
What had to be the largest crowd for all eight years, people lined the street to catch beads and dog biscuits and candy, and show off their dogs and have a grand old time.
Grand Marshall Dixie Partington, a preeminent dog lover and longtime backer of pro-animal causes, led the lengthy parade, followed atop boats by King Charlie, a boxer mix from the animal shelter, and Queen Peppermint Patty, a hound mix being fostered by Torben and Sarah Madson.
Torben Madson serves as the not-profit Krewe’s vice president, with Caroline Ilardi as president, Kathy Swaggerty as treasurer, Ann Cowles as secretary, and Ralph Shifferle, as member-at-large.
The parade featured the Lofty Pursuits Marching Band, from Tallahassee, made up of graduates of Florida A & M University, and Florida State University. “They were in marching bands when they were in college and they just didn’t want to quit marching,” said Ilardi.
Also in the parade were Fishlipz, a group of local people who play Dixieland jazz, and the Panama City Shriner Band of Buccaneers, who brought their impressive float to the event.
The Parrothead Club on St. George Island took part, as did the Oyster Radio oysterboat float, and the Main Street trolley, along with scores of people in golf carts, and on floats, and walking behind, all showing off their gaily decorated pooches. Kelly Mosely, the sheriff’s office’s victims advocate, brought along Buddy, the department’s service therapy dog.
Live mermaid Emily Jackson rode in a boat, and members of the Fishy Fashion Show, highlight of the annual Carrabelle Riverfront Festival, were on hand as well.
Music in Riverfront Park featured the Apalachicola Blues Authority, the second year that Dixieland band performed.
Ilardi said the 22 arts and crafts vendors, and eight food vendors, were all either strictly local or from the nearby counties, one from Tallahassee and the rest ranging from Wewahitchka to Ochlocknee Bay.
Last year the event raised $3,200 for the Franklin County Humane Society, and another $800 for the Florida Wild Mammal Association (FWMA) and Ilardi expects last weekend’s event will exceed that.
“We don’t charge a vendors fee, but we got nice donations from every single vendor that was there,” said Ilardi.
One highlight of the Riverfront Park affair was the appearance of the FWMA’s Doofie the pelican, as well as a sulcata tortoise, also called an African spurred tortoise, shown off by volunteer Jo Lewis. While not native to Florida, the desert tortoise was a pet somebody let loose, and it is being cared for by FWMA.
The humane society had plenty of dogs to adopt, and many were, but there are still ample pups to choose from at the animal shelter.
Ilardi said the event served up $2,500 worth of Oyster City Brewing Company beer, and food vendors provided everything from oxtails to shrimp tacos, and most were sold out.
“We registered over 200 people in the parade, and that doesn’t include golf carts, floats, boats or dogs,” said Ilardi. “The town was swamped, swamped until dark anyway.”
Next year’s event is already set for March 2, 2019, and one newcomer will be the St. Andrews Ukulele Orchestra, whatever that happens to be.