Memorable Mardi Gras

Little Cayman residents always do it up big for the island’s annual Mardi Gras parade but this year’s festivities had a memorable twist – a real life wedding atop a float.

Peter Hillenbrand

Peter Hillenbrand leads the way for Southern Cross Clubs Mardi Gras float. Photo: Rick Mewburn

Betty Bua and Joffer Smith exchanged vows at Saturday’s parade to the appreciative cheers of well-wishers and spectators.

‘When we found out this year’s theme was Special Occasions, we talked about it and thought, what could be more special?’ said the bride. ‘We’ve been going together for four years and we thought the time was right.’

The couple’s friends pitched in to dress up an elaborate float that carried the bride and groom and wedding party.

‘We tried to replicate a small island church,’ said long-time friend Janet Freemantle. ‘We wanted an island theme, so everything was natural. There were palm fronds, local flowers, conch shells and she even had sand from the beach to stand on.’

Janet and her husband Bob, a couple from England who take regular extended breaks at their condo on the island, have taken part in numerous Mardi Gras celebrations in Little Cayman. They’re always impressed with the effort that goes into it.

‘I like to see how creative people can be with very little in raw materials – you just can’t run down to the store.’

Indeed, for an island with a year-round population that can be counted in the dozens it was an inventive collection of floats and costumes that made its way from Head O’ Bay to the Hungry Iguana. Pockets of spectators lined up en route catching beads and other goodies – including long-stemmed roses – that were tossed from the floats.

Entries included everything from a Valentine’s Day float complete with Cupid to a ragtag bunch of placard-carrying hippies to a spectacular float celebrating New Year’s Eve that featured a giant champagne bottle and glass with balloon bunches serving as bubbles.

‘It’s terrific,’ said Liz Howard, who was among five guests enlisted from the island’s resorts to judge the entries.

‘We’ve been coming here for 30 years but we’ve never made it to Mardi Gras and we’re just thrilled we happened to be here at the same time,’ said the Indianapolis resident. ‘It’s just wonderful. The creativity is great.’

Robert and Joy Camp of Illinois were in Little Cayman visiting family. They’ve been to the island before but it was their first time participating in the Mardi Gras parade.

‘People really use their imaginations. That’s the best part,’ said Robert, who dressed up as Cupid for the Valentine’s Day float.

‘I’ve been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans but it’s not the same. There’s too many people. This is much better.’

Mitch Nowak, a charter boat captain at Head O’ Bay, got into the spirit of the day by jumping on board a float en route. ‘It’s terrific. Big fun – no worries.’

And that’s what it’s all about.

‘It’s a fun parade and almost everybody on the island is in the parade,’ said Peter Hillenbrand, owner of Southern Cross Club. ‘It’s just a good occasion for everybody to come together and have fun.’

After the parade, revellers headed off to the Little Cayman Beach Resort to enjoy a hearty meal of jambalaya, dancing and live music.

Mardi Gras founder and Pirates Point Resort owner Gladys Howard was thrilled with the turnout. The event is a fundraiser for the National Trust. She chairs the Little Cayman committee, which is working to establish an iguana sanctuary on the island.

‘It is very essential to eco-tourism on the island.’

Already, Gladys is drumming up support for the Trust’s next fundraiser, its annual Easter Auction on 7 April.

‘Contributions are always welcome.’