The Springtime Tallahassee Parade 2014 was March 29th. Tyree and I take our parades very seriously. Having enjoyed three Carnival Seasons in New Orleans, we know what makes a successful parade, and what does not. Springtime Tallahassee began in 1967 as a way to show civic pride in the State's Capital. In my opinion, as someone who loves her hometown, they could do better.
Springtime Tallahassee doesn't need to copy Mardi Gras to be fun, but it could use a few pointers. And more alcohol.
1. More Marching Bands!
At this year's parade we saw only one marching band, Shanks Middle School from Gadsden County - and they did a great job revving up the crowd. But then they kept marching and the techno music blasting from the Gasparilla floats was just not cutting it. I heard a rumor that Lincoln's marching band was somewhere downtown that morning, but if they weren't marching in the parade what was the point? Parades need energy from the crowd and live marching bands serve to get people excited - that's why they play at football games. Having local student bands play reinforces community spirit. So, where were the middle school and high school bands? Where were the FSU and FAMU bands for that matter? Is FAMU too good to play at Springtime Tallahassee? Having played Purple Rain in the Rain with Prince for a Super Bowl Halftime Show, yes, probably they are too good for us.
2. Less Racism!
Springtime Tallahassee has always had a racism problem. Wikipedia states there are five "krewes" involved in the Springtime parade (which is kind of laughable when you think that in New Orleans each krewe gets its own parade). The Spanish Krewe, American Territorial Krewe, Antebellum Krewe, War and Reconstruction Krewe, and the Century Krewe. These were developed in 1971 and are meant to show different phases of Florida's history. Except that what they do is highlight Florida's racist past. So, there is a Spanish Krewe, but no mention of Florida's Native Americans? There is the Antebellum Krewe, which hides slavery behind hoop skirts. War and Reconstruction - yes! a lovely era in our history. Makes me think of burnt out plantation homes, poverty and the birth of Jim Crow legislation. And then all the progress and civil rights gains washed over by the Century Krewe. Most controversial of all, Andrew Jackson always makes some sort of appearance as well. This has routinely been protested by Native American groups as insensitive to Jackson's fatal history with their ancestors - yet he is always there!
Tallahassee's population is 60% White, 34% Black and 4% Hispanic. But based on the historical highlights chosen to represent our state, it's clear who got to do the choosing. If the idea behind the parade is to make people feel proud of being from Tallahassee and to give a sense of community spirit, then maybe we should do away with some of the divisive imagery and create more inclusive themes for the Krewes. It is possible to both love your state and accept that the Antebellum period doesn't need to be romanticized anymore. Or that Jackson was racist and really doesn't need to cast his shadow on such a lovely spring day.
And, just so you know I don't think Mardi Gras is perfect, here is an older blog post about race and gender roles in Mardi Gras parades:
Even though all of Monroe street is blocked off, the floats ride on the right side of the street. Why? This means there is a good side and a bad side to watch the parade from. We were standing on the wrong side. It is harder to interact with the floats, harder to catch beads, harder to get into the spirit. And it's just dumb when there isn't any oncoming traffic.
4. TPD needs to chill out!
Part of what makes Mardi Gras such a fun experience is the interaction between the crowds and the people on the floats. You can walk right up to the floats, talk to the masked riders, tell them which beads you want. For some reason there is a rule at Springtime that you are not allowed to be anywhere near the floats. And the people riding on the floats are not allowed to interact with the crowd, not allowed to toss any throws, beads or candy. They have people walk along the sides passing things out, but usually they are so busy trying to keep pace with their group, there is no time to talk, or dance, or share a drink. Sigh. When a spectator gets too close to a float, as in the picture above, TPD swarms in and kills the fun. This officer was on a mission to make the family to the right go back to the sidewalk on the off chance that float, riding at 10 miles per hour and 20 feet away from them might pull them under.
5. Be more generous with the throws!
Again, I understand that Springtime is and never will be Mardi Gras. But if they are going to pass out beads and candy, they could be a little more generous. In New Orleans, a general rule for parading is that if it falls on the ground, you don't touch it, because they are going to throw more. You can't go to Mardi Gras and walk away without being covered in beads. But in Tallahassee, they pass out their beads one at a time, and as there is this bizarre rule about not interacting with people, they often throw the beads directly on the ground. WTH? And, because Tallahassee children have not grown up being showered with beads every year, they will actually pick them up off the ground, even out of the gutter. That's just sad.
Hopefully someone will hear me! Springtime Tallahassee could be so much better!
All Posts on Mardi Gras