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Dunedin's Mardi Gras party pushes aside chilly breeze

The tricorne pirates in festooned ships. The children, laughing, crawling for beads. The women in purple boas twisting their skirts in dance.

They wrapped around the floats and tents that lined Douglas Avenue, the stars of the show on Mardi Gras night. But the real notoriety, what everyone seemed to talk about on one of the biggest nights in town, was the bitter chilly breeze.

"We thought it would be warm here," said Deb McCrodan, a visitor from Canada, who bundled up near Main Street before the parade began. "Back at home it's snowing. Here isn't much better."

City officials expected 30,000 people would show up for Tuesday's festivities, which stretched into the night across downtown Dunedin.

Many came with ski jackets and beer cozies. Others flocked to the food tents for hot gumbo, or crowded the streetlights for a place to warm their hands.

The rolling, loud-speakered floats, one with a face and a smoking cigar, began to idle outside the Senior Activity Center around 6 p.m.

They rolled northward on Douglas, from the Blue Jays stadium to the Dunedin Brewery, fronted by city commissioners in tartan scarves and the city's bagpipe band.

The balloon carts and kettle corn kiosks before sunset, symbols of the street party's family-friendly nature, gave way to tables of champagne flutes and spirited cans of beer.

A zydeco band playing at the parade's Main Street center drew the biggest crowd, many clad in kilts and pendants reminiscent of the city's Scottish heritage. The crowd shivered, like those stationed in foldup chairs along the parade route. But they didn't let that stop them from dancing.

"I consider it a good turnout for it being 40 degrees," said Nicholas Esposito, a Mardi Gras regular working Eddie's Bar and Grill tent outside the Blur nightclub. "You can definitely tell people are cold and muscling through it."

Dunedin's Mardi Gras party pushes aside chilly breeze 02/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 9:29pm]
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