Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras is Florida's biggest party. It's the best place this side of The Big Easy to find great bands straight from Bourbon Street, authentic N’awlins style Cajun food, fun entertainment, live concerts and of course the massive parade. And what would Mardi Gras be without the beads? Catching all those countless beads is one of the greatest thrills around, but having the chance to stand on a float and throw them myself was an experience I'll never forget.
While it is very limited each evening, the opportunity to be a part of the parade and throw beads yourself is open to anyone. Annual Passholders can apply online at the beginning of the season, but anyone at the park is welcome to arrive early to the meet-up area in front of the Barney theater in the KidZone part of Universal Studios Florida. You'll want to arrive a few hours before the parade if you don't already have a reservation, since space is so limited.
When we arrived to receive our parade wristbands we learned that we would be standing on the "Jester" float. This is one of the more iconic returning floats in the parade this year. Before we could begin we were given all the rules: Rule number 1, have fun! We were also taught some bead throwing tips, like to never throw more than one at a time and never throw them overhand. Now we were ready to climb aboard our float. Everyone is given a themed tunic to wear over their clothes. Ours were green with a Jester collar on the front to match our float.
By the time the gates flew open and the float started moving you could see that the crowd was more than a little excited to see us. (I'm sure they had been waiting quite a bit to stake out these great spots on the route.) Our position on the float was fully stocked with hundreds of beads, all wrapped in bundles of 12 stacked high on hooks behind us. It took me a few tries to get the hang of it, but it's a great feeling to see someone and throw it right to them. I even saw someone on our float get it right on someone's head!
Some of the folks on our float were expert bead tossers. They had been volunteering for twenty years, and this was their 10th parade this year alone! They were kind enough to share some of their wisdom about how to keep the beads from getting tangled up while tossing. It was such a fun experience, with everyone dancing and throwing together, it really felt like we were one big happy family! I must've thrown more than 300 beads myself during the 30 minute parade, and I was warned I'd feel it in the morning. A sore arm is a small price to pay to see so many smiling faces in the crowd.
Throwing beads is fun, but catching them is even better! Don't miss out on Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras, going on now. This year's parade features six new floats, all themed to constellations, like Taurus, Virgo and more. And the parade is just one part of the overall excitement! It's unforgettable spring time fun for everyone.