Sometimes the parade patrons are more entertaining than the floats!
Carla's dad likes to make custom bikes in his spare time.
The History of the Rubonia Mardi Gras Parade, direct from the site: http://www.ruboniamardigras.org/history.pdf
In 1979, a small band of friends, led by Boo Ersham and Sharon Fredman, decided to give Luann
Topp a unique birthday present. Since Mardi Gras fell on Lu's birthday that year, the group
thought a parade through the sleepy little nearby town of Rubonia would be the perfect gift - and
one they could afford (versus a plane ticket to New Orleans). Once a bustling community on U.S.
41, Rubonia, consisting of mostly black residents, had grown quiet after being bypassed by
construction of a new, 4-laned highway to the east. Assembling a few makeshift "floats," the
small "Crewe of the Mystic Rainbow" hoisted Luann aboard and surprised the locals with a
march into Rubonia - where they made a U-turn in the middle of the road to return to Terra Ceia
for a party.
This had been way too much fun! The considerable mirth of the impromptu spectacle got some of
the assembled addled brains to thinking. Next year, it could be bigger and better! On Sunday,
February 17, 1980, starting at the Frog Creek bridge on Bishop Harbor Road, the first official
annual "Terra Ceia-Rubonia Mardi Gras Parade" marched the route to "main street" Rubonia.
Behind the sirens and flashing lights of the Palmetto Fire Control District truck was a small
assemblage of decorated trailers, trucks, tractors, and wagons, with garbed pranksters on foot and
horseback. The "Terra Ceia-Rubonia Philharmonic Band" played trumpet, tuba, and drums from
the back of a pickup. A professional showboat float, returning to St. Pete from a Ft. Myers event,
detoured to join the lineup. After making the U-turn in the middle of town - a move calculated to
allow the parade to review itself, the entourage headed back to Terra Ceia for the party.
In 1981, the "disorganizers" were approached by some Rubonia residents. The School Board was
charging the small group $1/year to rent an old wooden building, once a black schoolhouse,
which they used as the Rubonia Recreation and Youth Club. Manatee County government had
been offering them a budget of $3,000/year, but only on a cost re-imbursement basis, and the
Club really needed a fundraiser. They suggested having a children's contest, with two fundraising
winners then becoming the king and queen of the "event." So with the second annual parade on
March 1st, Rubonia's official involvement began, and tens of spectators actually appeared along
the route. But after the "traditional" U-turn, Luann, now a clown college graduate known as
"Ruby Begonia," and her company of mirth returned to Terra Ceia for her birthday party.
In 1982, the Mystic Crewe decided the après-parade party for the "town's clown" should really be
in Rubonia itself. After the February 21st parade, Boo Ersham's son and his band played music
from a trailer/stage pulled in front of Perry's grocery store. A magician performed, prizes were
raffled, and awards given to best costume and float. Community food stands offered $1.50
homemade dinners. By the end of the day, $707 had been raised for a new playground.
A cold rainy day didn't dampen the 1983 fourth annual parade's official "Love" theme, or keep
State Representative Larry Shackelford, Grand Marshal, from appearing through the sunroof of a
leading car. But the weather did result in fewer participants and spectators and less money from
sales of food, T-shirts, and Boo's souvenir buttons. Chuck Miller, director of the Rubonia Youth
Center, hoped to use the funds for a new roof for the old schoolhouse.
The event had become a parade with a purpose! With each succeeding year, the little parade
grew, with tens, then hundreds, then thousands of people coming, and a phenomenon was born.
The theme this year was "Will you still love me when I'm 64" Lots of floats had age themes. We had felt fish tied to the wood railings, lol.
The videos were taken in a moving vehicle while I was trying to throw beads out the window with my left hand. Due to the situation, the video may not be as smooth as it would be otherwise.