Mardi Gras in the Sunshine State

Think Mardi Gras is something that only happens in New Orleans? Think again! Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” has been celebrated in many parts of the world at one time or another, including right here in Florida. And it isn’t a recent phenomenon. Some Florida towns were holding Mardi Gras celebrations over a hundred years ago.

Mardi Gras celebrants in Milton in Santa Rosa County, complete with royalty. Milton celebrated its first Mardi Gras 100 years ago this year (photo 1916).

Mardi Gras celebrants in Milton in Santa Rosa County, complete with royalty. Milton celebrated its first Mardi Gras 100 years ago this year (photo 1916).

Mardi Gras, for all its characteristic decadence, actually stems from religious origins. It is the final, culminating day of the Carnival season on the Christian liturgical calendar. Carnival season extends from Epiphany (also known as Twelfth Night or Three Kings’ Day) to the beginning of the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday, which occurs about six weeks prior to Easter Sunday. Since the Lenten season typically involves a sober regimen of self-denial and penance, Carnival season and Mardi Gras serve as an opportunity to eat richly and celebrate joyously (hence the “fat” part of Fat Tuesday) before things get more serious.

Mardi Gras in Pensacola (1977).

Mardi Gras in Pensacola (1977).

A wide variety of colorful rituals and traditions have developed around this basic concept, many unique to the cities in which they were born. Common Mardi Gras activities include parades, costume balls, colorful decorations, and the designation of “royalty” to preside over the festivities. When Apalachicola celebrated its first Mardi Gras in 1915, for example, the event was reigned over by King Retsyo. Ten points if you can guess the significance of King Retsyo’s name!

King Retsyo ascends to his throne during Apalachicola's first Mardi Gras celebration in 1915.

King Retsyo ascends to his throne during Apalachicola’s first Mardi Gras celebration in 1915.

Apalachicola Mardi Gras parade (1915).

Apalachicola Mardi Gras parade (1915).

Lester Buer and Myra Franc Kaplan dressed in costume for Mardi Gras celebrations in Pensacola (circa 1916).

Lester Buer and Myra Franc Kaplan dressed in costume for Mardi Gras celebrations in Pensacola (circa 1916).

Pensacola was perhaps the first Florida city to observe Mardi Gras, holding its first celebration in 1874. A group of leading local socialites formed a Mardi Gras “krewe” called the Knights of Priscus Association to organize the festivities. The tradition fizzled after a few years, but was revived with gusto in 1900. Pensacola continues to celebrate Mardi Gras annually.

Pensacola's Mardi Gras celebration of 1900 included the crowning of King Priscus, better known as local attorney Alexander Clement Blount, II.

Pensacola’s Mardi Gras celebration of 1900 included the crowning of King Priscus, better known as local attorney Alexander Clement Blount, II.

Today, Mardi Gras is celebrated in cities all over Florida, featuring a blend of time-honored traditions and new ideas. Apalachicola, for example, recently instituted a Mardi Gras parade featuring both citizens and their pets. The event is spearheaded by the Krewe of Salty Barkers, adopting themes like “Barkaritaville” and “Woofstock” to guide both two- and four-legged participants in their costume choices.

One of the merrymakers at Apalachicola's Mardi Gras parade organized by the Krewe of Salty Barkers (2015). Photo courtesy of the Krewe of Salty Barkers.

One of the merrymakers at Apalachicola’s Mardi Gras parade organized by the Krewe of Salty Barkers (2015). Photo courtesy of the Krewe of Salty Barkers.

Farther down the peninsula, Orlando’s Universal Studios theme park offers an annual Mardi Gras event patterned after the popular New Orleans version of the festival. Hollywood also holds an annual Mardi Gras celebration titled “Fiesta Tropicale.” It originated in 1935 as the “Festival of Nations.” These are just a few examples; Florida towns from Dunedin to Lake Wales to Leesburg regularly celebrate Fat Tuesday with enthusiasm.

Mardi Gras celebration at the American Legion in Tampa (1926).

Mardi Gras celebration at the American Legion in Tampa (1926).

Does your Florida community do something special to celebrate Mardi Gras? If so, we want to know about it! Leave us a comment below, and don’t forget to share this post on Facebook and Twitter!

Retirement is for the Birds… Especially Turkeys

Have you ever known someone who retired and quickly became bored with their new freedom? Some retirees solve this problem by traveling, spending more time with the grandkids, or taking up a hobby. Mrs. W.G. Butler of Havana, Florida found quite an unusual hobby when she became a little dissatisfied with retired life in the 1950s. Skipping the more conventional retirement activities, Mrs. Butler decided to raise turkeys.

Mrs. W.G. Butler with turkeys at the Tot's Tender Turkey Farm, Havana (1952).

Mrs. W.G. Butler with turkeys at the Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm, Havana (1952).

That’s right – turkeys. Mrs. Butler turned her 12-acre plot in Gadsden County into Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm, home to literally thousands of gobbling birds destined eventually for holiday tables across America. Mrs. Butler explained that after decades of moving around the country for her husband’s construction career, she thought settling down would be relaxing. But it wasn’t. Her husband was often out hunting and fishing, and she was alone at home.

Mrs. W.G. Butler with turkeys at the Tot's Tender Turkey Farm, Havana (1952).

Mrs. W.G. Butler with turkeys at the Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm, Havana (1952).

The turkey farm started out merely as something to do. She bought 200 chicks and gave each one a name. Within a few months, however, the enterprise had taken off. A few years into her new-found career, Mrs. Butler was raising and shipping over 7,000 turkeys annually. The hens weighed between 10 and 16 pounds, while the toms weighed between 20 and 23 pounds. She ended up hiring a staff of 30 workers to help feed and inoculate the birds on a regular basis. Turkeys, moreover, love to squabble, and Mrs. Butler reported that she and her workers spent a great deal of time breaking up spats between their charges. So much for a restful and relaxing retirement!

Turkeys feeding at the Tot's Tender Turkey Farm (1952).

Turkeys feeding at the Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm (1952).

Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm is no longer in operation, but the tradition of eating delicious turkey around the holidays still continues for many families across the Sunshine State. What are some of your favorite holiday treats? Share with us by posting a comment below or on our Facebook page!

And… don’t forget to browse the Florida Photographic Collection for more images depicting Thanksgiving traditions in Florida.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

You taught us how to bait our hooks and land the big catch.  You showed us how to throw and how to hit the ball just right. You picked us up and swung us around and cheered us up when we needed it most. Thank you to all the wonderful dads out there. Happy Father’s Day!

3 year old Bruce Carlton shows his father, Pet Carlton, his first fish - Saint Petersburg, Florida

3 year old Bruce Carlton shows his father, Pet Carlton, his first fish – Saint Petersburg, Florida (1948)

 

Commercial seine net fisherman with his son in Naples, Florida.

Commercial seine net fisherman with his son in Naples, Florida (June 1949)

 

Edwin Perry having breakfast with his daughters on Father's Day in Tallahassee.

Edwin Perry having breakfast with his daughters on Father’s Day in Tallahassee (1962)

 

Leigh M. Pearsall and daughter Edna with alligator on dock - Melrose, Florida

Leigh M. Pearsall and daughter Edna with alligator on dock – Melrose, Florida (ca. 1905)

 

Governor Farris Bryant playing ping pong with his daughters on Father's Day in Tallahassee (1962)

Governor Farris Bryant playing ping pong with his daughters on Father’s Day in Tallahassee (1962)

 

Gubernatorial candidate Fred B. Karl with his daughter (1964)

Gubernatorial candidate Fred B. Karl with his daughter (1964)

 

Eddie Oxendine and son with hoop nets - Georgetown, Florida

Eddie Oxendine and son with hoop nets – Georgetown, Florida (1985)

 

Daughter wields gavel at legislative session - Tallahassee, Florida

Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Peter Rudy Wallace prepares to conduct business while his daughter wields gavel at legislative session – Tallahassee, Florida (1995)

 

John Cypress holding his daughter Julia at a temporary camp in Immokalee, Florida.

John Cypress holding his daughter Julia at a temporary camp in Immokalee, Florida

Happy New Year!

Baby New Year had a long night, so instead here’s a selection of baby photos to help usher in the rebirth of the year.

Wilhelmina Pearde, Madison, ca. 1890

Wilhelmina Pearde, Madison, ca. 1890

 

Unidentified baby in a stroller, Hawthorne, ca. 1890

Unidentified baby in a stroller, Hawthorne, ca. 1890

 

Brown family child, Eastpoint, ca. 1900

Brown family child, Eastpoint, ca. 1900

 

Arthur Cleaves Jr. and Sarah Louise Spiller, Tallahassee, ca. 1908

Arthur Cleaves Jr. and Sarah Louise Spiller, Tallahassee, ca. 1908

 

Unidentified child in Miami, 1910

Unidentified child, Miami, 1910

 

Fulton W. Boney, High Springs, 1922

Fulton W. Boney, High Springs, 1922

 

Jane Douglas Bruns, Tallahassee, 1924

Jane Douglas Bruns, Tallahassee, 1924

 

Simon A. Kinsey Jr., Lee, 1928

Simon A. Kinsey Jr., Lee, 1928

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a…

Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, ca. 1980

Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, ca. 1980

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

Greenwood children sending letters to Santa, 1915

Greenwood children sending letters to Santa, 1915

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

Napping with a manatee, ca. 1970

Napping with a manatee, ca. 1970

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Connie Gowan and Merrily Costello surprised by Santa, Panama City Beach, 1962

Connie Gowan and Merrily Costello surprised by Santa, Panama City Beach, 1962

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

Eight young ladies surround Santa, St. Petersburg, 1952

Eight young ladies surround Santa, St. Petersburg, 1952

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

Santa on the beach, Panama City Beach, 1956

Santa with his reindeer on the beach, Panama City Beach, 1956

“Now Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

Ringling Circus elephant dressed as "Vixen," Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1963

Ringling Circus elephant dressed as “Vixen,” Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1963

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

Santa and friends, Sarasota, 1965

Santa and friends, Sarasota, 1965

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

Santa in front of the Florida Welcome Sign, Jennings, 1956

Santa in front of the Florida Welcome Sign, Jennings, 1956

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

Santa picking oranges, Sarasota, 1965

Santa picking oranges, Sarasota, 1965

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Christmas Greetings from Florida, ca. 1920

Christmas Greetings from Florida, ca. 1920

Florida Gift List

Stumped about what to get your loved ones this holiday season? We’ve got a few ideas…

Make-up kits are perfect for toddlers. What could go wrong?

Unidentified children playing with make-up at George Brunette's School of Art, Jacksonville, 1949

Unidentified children playing with make-up at George Brunette’s School of Art, Jacksonville, 1949

Little kids love alligators! Although, we’d suggest the fake plushy kind…

Dorothy Hedley Morris with an alligator, Fort Lauderdale, ca. 1940

Dorothy Hedley Morris with an alligator, Fort Lauderdale, ca. 1940

An underwater photography session? Make sure to include diving supplies!

Underwater photography at Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, 1963

Underwater photography at Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, 1963

Who doesn’t want an ostrich for a house pet?

Ellwood and Rolfe Towle at the Casper's Ostrich and Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, 1947

Ellwood and Rolfe Towle at the Casper’s Ostrich and Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, 1947

Mom would love a nice, relaxing pedicure! We hear elephant trainers offer great rates…

Elephant-sized pedicure, Sarasota, 1956

Elephant-sized pedicure, Sarasota, 1956

You can get them a car that’s just like Dad’s… just not as fast.

Different cars for different sized drivers, ca. 1930

Different cars for different sized drivers, ca. 1930

The rattlesnake hat is all the rage.. somewhere.

Woman wearing a stuffed rattlesnake hat, Eustis, ca. 1900

Woman wearing a stuffed rattlesnake hat, Eustis, ca. 1900

Or, you can just get that box of oranges you’ve been promising for years…

Greetings from Florida, postmarked 1952

Greetings from Florida, postmarked 1952

But, seriously, if you really want to get that Florida lover in your life a GREAT present, remember that all of our photographs are available for ordering and make a wonderful addition to any home: http://www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection/refpricelist.php.