PANAMA CITY BEACH — Mardi Gras to Liven Up St. Andrews This Weekend – February 25-26, 2011

Panama City Beach – The Krewe of St. Andrews and the St. Andrews Waterfront Partnership have teamed up this year to bring the festival and parades to Historic St. Andrews.

“There are two different entities putting on this event, and one can’t survive with the other,” said Krewe of St. Andrews member and public relations chair Pam George, who also is the marketing director at Gulf World Marine Park.  George, who has been “on the hunt for a purple dress” for this weekend, is responsible for making sure the parades go smoothly. Festival coordinator Ronnie Barnes of the St. Andrews Waterfront Partnership has been coordinating the entertainment.

“Together we can be so much more powerful,” said Krewe of St. Andrews Queen Patti Fowler.  The Krewe of St. Andrews is a social and fundraising group, raising money for the Krewe of St. Andrews Scholarship and giving to the Boys & Girls Club.  “The Krewe of St. Andrews not only has a good time, but gives back to the community,” Fowler said. “The Krewe has people from all walks of life.”  The Krewe of St. Andrews has about 150 members, who participate in socials year-round.

The parades help bring crowds in, and the festival will keep crowds in the area and help downtown businesses, George said.

“Our guests are looking forward to the festival” said Pam Eyler with Best Panama City Beach Condo Rentals at Celadon Beach Resort www.bestpanamacitybeachcondo.com  “I am looking forward to the music, the Grande Parade and taking some fun pictures to post on our web site,” Eyler said.

 “It’s like New Orleans, always a reason for a party,” George said.

Bill Fowler joins his wife in Krewe royalty as the Krewe of St. Andrews king. Although a queen and king can choose their own attire for Mardi Gras events, the Fowlers chose to wear the feather headdresses and capes belonging to the Krewe.  “We felt it was an honor,” Patti Fowler said.

Bill Fowler began working on the parade floats in October and has been responsible for decorating the floats in this year’s Mardi Gras theme: The French Connection.

The St. Andrews Mardi Gras Pet Parade leads the Kids Parade at 4 p.m. Friday heading south on Beck Avenue from St. Andrews School to the corner of 11th Street. The parade will then travel east on 11th Street to Foster Avenue. Wayne Gentry, of WMBB, is the master of ceremonies.

“People really get into it,” George said. “I know two people who ordered dog costumes from New Orleans.”

The party will continue into the night with the Ragin’ Cajun Cook-off at 7 p.m. at Granite Café. Presented by the Krewe of St. Andrews, proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity.

The Mardi Gras Annual Grande Parade is at 2 p.m. Saturday featuring more than 20 floats beginning on 11th Street and Flower Avenue, traveling west on 11th Street to Beck Avenue. Kramer & Holly from “That Guy Kramer” will be the masters of ceremonies.

“We are so proud to have the Wounded Warriors,” Patti Fowler said. The Wounded Warriors are this year’s grand marshals, with one person from each branch of service.

The Krewe of St. Andrews will have seven floats in this weekend’s parade, whether it’s rain or shine.  “We roll either way,” George said

Mardi Gras festival

The St. Andrews Mardi Gras Festival is from 2-8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday in the streets of Historic St. Andrews. The festival will feature 70 vendors and live music on eight stages.

EastBay will get the music started at 2 p.m. Friday on Stage 1 and then come back for more at 6 p.m. Saturday. The local island rock duo, featuring John Davis on vocals and guitar and David Merriam on percussion, is a regular at the St. Andrews Waterfront Farmers’ Market.

Savannah-based Sunday Project will be on Stage 2 at 2 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday, bringing guitar and folk lyrics for its indie sound. The band features Sidney Holloway on guitar and vocals, Greg Parton on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Johnny Briggs on percussion and Trevor Johnson on bass.

Almost There will perform at 5 p.m. Friday on Stage 1 and 1 p.m. Saturday on Stage 2. High school sophomores James Bell, Mason Downey and Haden Martinez describe their original music as a mix of rock and blues, but they also play a variety of crowd favorites. Downey, who founded the band, is the lead singer and guitarist. He and Bell, drummer, began playing music together at Holy Nativity Episcopal School during a guitar class.

“I’ve been playing with James since I was in second grade,” Downey said.

Downey said they got serious about music in middle school and then recruited Martinez, bassist and vocalist, in 2008.

Bell’s dad, John Bell, heard them practicing one day, and he said, “you’re almost there.” The name stuck.

For this weekend, the band has 24 songs planned, including “Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown, “Crossroads” by John Mayer and “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock. They even have produced some originals, such as “Abandoned Apathy” by Downey and “Finally Found My Way” by Martinez.

Following Almost There on Friday will be the Blackout Brass Band at 6 p.m. Started as an experimental project by a group from the 98th Army Silver Wings Band, the Blackout Brass Band brings traditional New Orleans street band instrumentation and incorporates funk rhythms.

Grammy nominee Slim Fatz will go on at 5 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday on Stage 2. The Delta bluesman’s latest offering is a team effort between Slim Fatz and legendary music producer, Neal James, “Everybody Loves Slim.”

Following Slim Fatz on Friday will be Panama City-based Kelly & The Healers with classic blues. Led by singer and lead guitarist Kelly Hundley, who has appeared with artists such B.B. King, Eric Johnson, Jeff Healey and Rick Derringer, the band also features bassist and vocalist Neal Franks and drummer Chris Curry.

The Tony Vegas Group goes on Stage 1 at 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday. Blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Tony Vegas, an international recording artist, has released three CDs including “Rockin’ the Blues,” “Cajun Ladies” and “Nawlins Renaissance.”

KD and Legacy goes on at 4 p.m. Saturday on Stage 1. Based out of Dothan, Ala., Legacy entertains with Motown, R&B and smooth jazz. The band includes Melvin Burks on keyboards and trumpet, Kenneth Darden “KD” on lead vocals and guitar, Marcus Hart as bassist and musical director, Keith Anderson on drums, James Crawford “JC” on guitar and Leslie Moguel on lead and background vocals.

Emerald County Line, a modern country band, performs at 4 p.m. Saturday on Stage 2. The band features guitarist and founder Tim Parrish, female lead singer Brittnie Sloan, Luke Abbey on lead guitar and harmonica, Caleb Todd on bass guitar and Kenny Brown on drums. Emerald County Line has opened for national acts including Carrie Underwood.

The Bay Stage Avant-Garde, a new community theater organization in Panama City, will be performing mime sketches during the festival.

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