Photos by Katie Eleneke / The Collegian
A crowd of children and Mardi Gras onlookers reach for beads being thrown during the procession of the parade on Sunday in the Tower District.
Rowdy patrons filled the bars drinking local brews. Families packed the cafes eating lunch. Kids were in awe of street performers, and people of all ages set out chairs and picnic mats to reserve their spots.
The Tower District was painted with color and character on Sunday as thousands turned out to celebrate the 17th annual Grand Mardi Gras Parade.
Despite the dreary weather, an array of people lined Olive Avenue awaiting for the superhero-themed spectacle to begin at 1:30 p.m. But until the parade commenced, the public found fun in experiencing the unusual culture that the Tower District embodies.
Bill Kuebler, the director of Tower District Marketing, said events such as the parade are a “critical component” to Tower’s cultural life. He believes it’s the perfect neighborhood in both location and atmosphere, unique to anything else in Fresno.
With a total of 28 entries this year, Kuebler said the parade gets “a little better and bigger every year.”
“It’s a great opportunity for people to come down and experience something different,” Kuebler said.
The parade’s performers first arrived on bikes before being followed by those on stilts, rollerblades, skateboards, old-fashioned Volkswagen cars and various floats. Some dressed as the usual heroes and villains, such as Batman, the Joker, Catwoman and X-Men. Others decked themselves out in the vibrant colors of Mardi Gras festivities – purple, green and gold.
The visuals were just one element of the display. Music also played a role in creating the parade’s atmosphere. Several floats featured a variety of bands, from an all-instrumental trumpet ensemble to popular local groups like Q-Pop Radio and Sippy and Old Guzzler.
For Jennifer Ramos, a mother of four, the outing was perfect for a “family day” of a different style and one she’d definitely do again.
A participant donned purple attire and dressed for the parade’s superhero theme Sunday in the Tower District.
“It’s a good way to get outdoors and meet people and have fun,” Ramos said.
Fresno State student Tara Boynton, a senior majoring in child development, said the day was an experience to see the parade, but also people watch.
“There was such a different array of people there,” Boynton said. “There were families, single people, young, old. I thought it was cool the community all came together.”
After Sequoia Brewing Company was packed to capacity, Boynton instead went to Pinot Wine Bar and Bistro for a drink and wasn’t disappointed. With more live music being played inside and the bar busy, she said it left her with a good impression of the Tower District.
“It’s cool that afterwards all the businesses are full of people,” Boynton said. “It helps build awareness of these places.”
While the parade was a family-orientated event, Tower District nightspots will also offer Mardi Gras parties Tuesday night for those 21 and over.