20th annual Mardi Gras parade may have been last for Tower District

Green, yellow and purple filled the Tower District on Sunday afternoon for the 20th annual Mardi Gras parade, as children, adults and dogs crowded onto Olive Avenue.

It might be the last one because of rising costs.

For 20 years the parade has marched down Olive Avenue. Even with the parade route cut down from Palm to Maroa avenues this year, the Tower Marketing Committee said rising costs may make this the final parade.

In 2015, the city of Fresno charged the Tower Marketing Committee $2,051.81 for the 15 police officers it sent to the parade for street closures, according to a letter sent to the committee Jan. 8, 2016, by Fresno Traffic and Special Services Bureau Commander Andy Hall. The letter stated the rate for 2015 was the same as for 2014.

This year, the committee said the charge was $5,000 more than normal because of new policies.

City spokesman Mark Standriff said a law changed three years ago, requiring hard street closures that a company like Alert-A-Lite would have to provide.

Additionally, a new program was initiated, requiring the city to be reimbursed for the cost of providing street closure services to parades, marathons and other events. Before, the police department had only sought reimbursement for the officers’ time at the event.

For 2015, the city provided 15 officers for the event, according to the letter, and it also warned the committee that it would be the last time the city would be able to do so. The barricades, required by the law, would have to be obtained by the committee.

The parade began at 1 p.m. with people hanging out of bar patios holding drinks, and children on sidewalks catching colored beads thrown from floats.

The theme “Myths, Folk and Fairy Tales” brought out people in devil costumes, and several decorated hearses were part of the procession.

Local businesses had floats and drove trucks in the parade, such as Goldstein’s Mortuary & Delicatessen and the still-closed Livingstone’s Restaurant.

“I heard it was going to be the last parade,” Chris Rodriguez said as she watched the parade. “I called up my friend and told her, ‘Hey, you need to go. It’s going to be the last.’ 

Maria Perez lives near the Tower District and said she has been coming to the Mardi Gras parade for four years. She praised events like the Pooch Parade and Pride Parade that the Tower District puts on.

Perez hopes enough money will be raised for another Mardi Gras parade next year.

Perez brought her dog Charlie for the second year, and said he loves the parade. “People give him beads,” she laughed, pointing at the multicolored beads Charlie wore around his neck. “He comes empty-handed and leaves with a whole collar.”

Donations are being accepted at the Tower District website for next year’s parade.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPan