Downtown Cocoa, or Cocoa Village as it’s more commonly called, celebrates a few events each year where they block off a few blocks by the river and charge a fee to get in and celebrate. Oktoberfest is one such celebration and the other we attended last night, Cocoa’s version of Mardi Gras. Florida doesn’t like being left out of anything as we strive to be the tourist trap of the world, so we couldn’t allow the Gulf Coast States to keep the celebration of sensual excess to themselves. We wanted in.
A friend noticed it was happening first and sent a text saying let’s do it. Never one to turn down a good party or a chance to witness people being stupid, I agreed. I had already been writing about Mardi Gras all week here at the Mess, so I figured it was a great way to end the series. Of course, then I discovered I had to buy tickets and my alcohol money dwindled. I was confused as to why we were purchasing tickets in the first place, but then again I wonder how Universal Studios Florida can charge $15 to park your car before paying to enter their parks. We were earning out title Tourist Trap of the World.
Upon passing through the gate and handing the man there my $32 worth of tickets, the first booth we came across was selling booze. I quickly forked over my six dollars for the Mardi Gras Bock by Abita and took a swig. At least I received a free koozy to keep it cold. It was the only thing free that night.
The girls and I began to wander through the other booths just soaking it all in while we waited for our friends to show up. I had bought each of them a set of beads to start the night off with in the hopes of getting us in the spirit. We had tried to find me a Mardi Gras fedora, but Florida hasn’t become that festive, yet.
However, one of the first booths was selling bright flashy hats, hair extensions, beads, and anything else they could stick a light in or on. I found my purple sequined fedora with flashy lights that I decided against turning on. They were so fast it could have sent someone into epileptic shock. Besides, the girls refused to look at me while it was on.
They had three bands staged throughout the massive block party, each playing some level of rock. That confused me a little because when you think Mardi Gras, you think jazz. Florida needs to do some more research.
Our friends finally found us, my purple hat acting as a beacon announcing our location. While the majority of the crowd was dressed as normal people, there were a few that took the opportunity to don their festive finery for the occasion. One couple dressed up as a skeleton witch doctor and his bride while others had dyed their hair Mardi Gras colors as they slipped on fishnets and skimpy skirts. The one thing about Floridians is we take advantage of every opportunity to celebrate and we go all out when we do. We’ll even pay exorbitant prices for the privilege.
With one of the girls working late that day, the plan was to get dinner there. It was a poor plan.
There were several restaurants within the blocked off blocks, but everyone had the same idea we had. Every place we peeked into was packed and with there being ten of us in our merry little band, it would have been a lengthy wait. We then resorted to plan B, which was purchasing food from the many vendors set up around the place. It wasn’t the best option, but it was food. There was a wide variety from hot dogs and BBQ to gumbo and jambalaya. The bad part was the cost. A two dollar bottle of beer was six bucks, so you can imagine what a 50 cent hot dog cost. A small bowl of jambalaya was six dollars while burnt chicken on a stick was five. Then you had to stand and eat it. And we paid eight dollars for this treat.
Near one of the bands was a park and we were able to find a short wall that some could perch on. Tamara held the spot while the rest of us ventured off to the various vendors to search out the cheapest sustenance. I wound up with jambalaya and a hot dog. I know, not the best dietary combination. I had started with red beans and rice but it had a kick to it that my stomach was not going tolerate. With food in hand, we all gathered around eating, drinking, and laughing. It didn’t matter that we were standing or that the band wasn’t the best. It also didn’t matter that the food was blah and cost more than it was worth. When you’re surrounded by friends and those you love, it overpowers all of the negative and you have fun regardless.
Once the food was devoured and another round of drinks downed, it was time to find a spot to watch the parade. I was already over the band that was playing, so we ventured to the next block and a different musical venue. A few in our little group had never witnessed a Mardi Gras parade, so Teri was quick to pass out the instructions. “You have to yell, ‘Throw me Sumpin’ Mistah!’ and then stretch your arms to catch.” And honestly, that’s all there is to it.
The guard rails were in place, the streets cleared and at nine o’clock we heard the beating of the drums of the first band and saw the flashing lights of the escorting police officers. Arms went up, fingers stretched and people yelled.
“Throw me sumpin’, Mistah!”
Beads were flying and hands were grasping. We laughed and screamed and everyone had a great time.
The parade consisted of less than ten floats boxed in with a band on each end. The whole procession took less than thirty minutes to idle by. Yet, they weren’t done. Because it was such a short parade they circled the route twice, giving everyone a chance to catch all they could reach. It was even louder the second time around as now everyone knew what they were supposed to do. By this time, even those in the parade realized what their part was and more beads flew through the air to be caught by eager hands. An hour later, we all had a multitude of colorful necklaces around our necks and the night was well worth the eight bucks.
With the parade over it was time to call it a night, but we weren’t ready to go home, yet. We ended our night at a bar on the beach, eating more food and sharing more stories. It was a fun evening with great people and a needed break from the work week. It was an adventure worthy of the title Messing and these were the people you wanted to be out Messing with. After all, the adventure is all about the people you’re taking on the journey with you more so than the journey itself.
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For Further Reading ~ Mardi Gras Is Born
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