PANAMA CITY — The heart of Historic St. Andrews is the setting for “All that Jazz” during this weekend’s Mardi Gras festival and parades with the Krewe of St. Andrews and SAMGFest.
“This is our 16th year to parade,” said Krewe of St. Andrews President Pam George, who has been a member since 2002. “We are actually in the process of building a den, a building to house the floats in. … All the floats have different styles for the theme. One is House of Blues, another the KOSA Club.”
Pets will lead the half-mile Kids and Pets Parade at 4 p.m. Friday.
“We will be crowning the pets at 3:45,” George said. “People will decorate them and put them in costumes. They are mostly dogs, but sometimes we have cats.”
The pet parade requires a registration fee, with the proceeds going to local animal organizations.
Little Miss and Mister, crowned tonight during the Royal Kids’ Ball, will be riding in a car with the top down behind the pets in a parade that promises more stuffed animals and candy.
The Krewe of St. Andrews will have seven floats in the Main Parade, though they are working on an eighth float for next year.
“St. Andrews reminds me of a little New Orleans ... with that homey feeling,” George said.
The Main Parade, starting at 2 p.m. Saturday from Oakland Terrace Park to Beck Avenue and west to 15th Street, will include 15 krewes and 30 floats.
“This should be a crowd record breaker this year,” said King Charles Segrest, who was crowned along with Queen Rebecca Barrow at the Krewe of St. Andrews Royal Ball.
Segrest and Barrow will be riding with four princesses and four princes on the Royal float decked out with black, gold, silver and pearl, music notes and silhouettes of jazz musicians.
“We took a little bit from the Bob Fosse movie, ‘Chicago,’ which has the song ‘All That Jazz’ in it,” said Segrest, who majored in chemistry, but studied jazz at Auburn University.
Every year, each king and queen also picks a charity to benefit. This year, they chose Sunrise Community on Beck Avenue, where Segrest’s sister was a patient for 23 years. The goal is to raise $3,000 to $5,000 for Sunrise, with about $2,000 raised so far.
“They have 31 clients and 70 employees, so they get a lot of one-on-one attention and special care,” Segrest said. “Sunrise Community focuses on keeping patients active, mentally and physically. … They do great for clients. It’s a big relief for families to know their relatives are getting good care.”
The money from Friday night’s Cajun cook-off also goes to the Sunshine fund.
“The Krewe is nonprofit, so most every dollar we fundraise and earn go to a fund,” Barrow said.
More than 10 restaurants, as well as other individual competitors, are signed up for the Cajun cook-off. Last year’s winner was Boatyard.
For more information about the past 16 years with the Krewe, check out an exhibit at the Publishing Museum.
The St. Andrews Mardi Gras Festival on Friday and Saturday will be expanded this year to include Bayview Avenue and perpendicular streets.
“This year we are expecting it to be even bigger. … Come down early; don’t just come for parade,” said festival coordinator Chris Anderson. “We will have a more diverse food selection, several featuring fresh Gulf seafood, every array of Cajun you can think of, barbecue, Latin, Greek, Asian; something for everybody. Caribbean Café out of Santa Rosa Beach is a local favorite. Black Jack Grill is doing Cajun seafood and Greek in two separate kitchens. They will have crab cakes, jambalaya, coconut shrimp, all that good stuff.”
A children’s area will include pony rides, bouncy houses, inflatable slides, swing rides, as well as games for kids, where a lucky winner could leave with a goldfish.
“Live music will be playing the entire time. The main stage is in Uncle Ernie’s parking lot,” Anderson said. “It’s just a neat community; everyone knows each other.”
More than 75 merchandise vendors and local artisans from all over the Southeast will have everything from wood carvings to handmade handbags, paintings and handmade jewelry.
And when it comes to jewelry, beads reign during Mardi Gras.
“People are coming in with hundreds and hundreds of types of beads — over-the-top, really jumbo beads and specialty beads if you want them with alligators and Mardi Gras hats,” Anderson said.
The whole village pitches in to help out for events in St. Andrews.
“This is my first year helping with it, but the (Waterfront) Partnership has been doing it the past 11 years with the Krewe of St. Andrews,” said Rob Rosner, St. Andrews CRA program director. “One of the things that’s really good about St. Andrews is it has a good sense of community. … I believe it’s gotten better every year as participants stay tied to community. We feel it’s a great thing.”
With large festivals come extra security.
“The police come out in full force,” Rosner said.
Some proceeds from the two-day festival will go to Taunton Family Children’s Home in Wewahitchka.
ST. ANDREWS MARDI GRAS
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: Historic St. Andrews in Panama City
What: Vendors, live music, children’s activities/rides, food; kids and pet parade at 4 p.m. Friday; main parade is at 2 p.m. Saturday
Thursday, Jan. 31
6 p.m.: Royal Kids Ball, with tableau beginning at 6:15 p.m. Cost: $2 for adults, $1 for children 5 to 10
Friday, Feb. 1
2-8 p.m.: Festival open with children’s activities/rides, live music, more than 20 food vendors with Cajun food, local seafood, BBQ and more.
4 p.m.: Kids and Pets Parade down Beck Avenue
7 p.m.: Cajun cook-off / After-party at Time Out Sports Bar on Bayview Drive
Saturday, Feb. 2
10 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Festival open with children’s activities/rides, live music, more than 20 food vendors with Cajun food, local seafood, BBQ and more.
2 p.m.: Krewe of St. Andrews Main Event Parade from Oakland Terrace Park heading west on 11th Street and North on Beck Avenue.
Friday, Feb. 1
2-3 p.m.: EastBay
3:30-5 p.m.: One Nite Tribe
5:30-6:30 p.m.: Sin Wagon
7-8 p.m.: True Soul
Saturday, Feb. 2
10-11:30 a.m.: Sin Wagon
Noon to 1:45 p.m.: Screamin Fleas
2:15-3:45 p.m.: Kelly & The Healers
4:15-6 p.m.: True Soul
6:30-8 p.m.: Tony Vegas Group