Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rubonia 30th Annual (and last) Mardi Gras Parade March 1, 2009

This is the last year for the Annual Rubonia Mardi Gras Parade. The parade originated 30 years ago, started by Carla's Aunt Boo and has a bit of interesting history. I'll include a link for the history for those that are curious. I have participated in the parade before and I made an effort to participate this year since it appears that the city won't grant the permits again. The parade is crazy and drunk people fight for beads. People decorate their kids, people decorate their dogs. People show up looking like clowns, conquestadors and crazy people. It's a blast. The first set of pictures are all of us setting up the float. This fantastic design was agreed apon after 30 seconds of discussion after showing up late and realizing there wasn't a plan. Everyone elses floats looked really good. We had 10 gross of beads, so no one cared that we looked bad. We threw good beads.

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:

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 apr├Ęs-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.

Weeki Wachi January 25, 2009

Finally made it to Weeki Wachee. During the winter season you get off season rates, less crowds and the water park (which probably keeps the place in business financially) is closed. In January, I love Weeki Wachi. The cost of admission gets you a ride on the Weeki Wachi river in a nice little boat, animal shows, mermaid shows and a number of corny photo ops made out of plywood and pant. The boat ride was fantasic! I took a thousand pictures and could have loaded them all on this sight. The water is clear, there is vast vegatation and tons of birds. I liked the boat ride so much I took it twice. Feel free to click on any of the photos for enlargement.

The mermaid shows were a bit corny but the girls are very talented. They carry hoses that are connected to an air pump. The act, dance, swim, and lip sync underwater for about 20 minutes using only the air hoses. It's pretty impressive. The underwater stage is actually part of the springs, so although it's been modified, there are still fish and turtles that swim in during the show. Occasionally a manatee will wander in midshow and the girls will have to work around it.

Off season, this place gets two thumbs up from me. On season, I'm sure I would hate it. If any of you go, be sure to take an early afternoon (late morning) boat ride to get the best light.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Heritage Village Park January 18, 2009

Me and the folks decided to check out Heritage Village in Largo. I've been meaning to get over there but just haven't had the time. It was a really nice display of old Florida history. There was a train station, residential homes, school house, and other interesting structures. Dad was feeling a bit energetic and goofy. I took advantage of it by capturing all his crazy moments on film.