Our Offbeat Easter Parade
This year marks the 57th Annual Easter Parade in St. Augustine. Dubbed "La Parada de los Caballos y Coches," or "The Parade of Horses and Carriages," this popular hometown parade features pirates, soldiers, horses and carriages, and the “royal trio” from 17th-century Spain, all of which you might expect in a city with over 450 years of history.
But St. Augustine’s Easter Parade also includes a number of specific traditional aspects that are tied to the unique multicultural roots of the nation’s oldest city. And even more, the parade has evolved over the years to include a host of quirky characters and groups, from the Easter Bunny (of course!) to beauty pageant contestants and Imperial Storm Troopers (wearing pink bunny slippers).
The History of the Easter Parade
Residents of the city are familiar with the story behind the yearly festivities, but visitors may wonder how the parade came about, and who are those people in the fancy Renaissance style clothes?
The Easter Festival first started around 1902 with various events and festivities. In the early 1950s St. Augustine was faced with a drop in tourism during the first part of the year. In order to bring more visitors to town, the City of St. Augustine asked Eleanor Barnes, a local genealogist, to help bring historical significance to the Easter festival and parade. Mrs. Barnes traveled to Spain to do some historical research on the Minorcan population in St. Augustine and its ties to the royalty.
Her research led her to the Castillo de San Marcos, and the amazing woman who commissioned it — Queen Marianna of Spain. The rulers of Spain in 1672, including Queen Marianna, are important because of their early involvement in the city. Funding the construction of the Castillo played an important role in preserving the city. For many, the fort is considered to be a contributing factor to the city's survival throughout history.
In order to honor and pay tribute to the Queen and the royal family responsible for it, including King Carlos and Princess Margarita Maria, the city of St. Augustine decided to create their own royal trio. This trio consists of residents with ties to the Minorcans or the early Spanish in St. Augustine. There's a woman aged 35-40 to portray Queen Marianna, a boy 11-14 to play King Juan Carlos, and a girl 15-20 to play Princess Margarita Maria.
The Royal Trio is crowned early in the year right before spring. They preside over major events in the city, with their biggest appearance being in the Easter parade. The Royal Trio represents the city of St. Augustine throughout the country, attending festivals, parades, and events in other U.S. cities.
Royal Trio of 2017:
Photo courtesy of Oldest City Easter.
Queen Marianna - Shannon Nanney
King Juan Carlos - Xavier Taylor
Princess Margarita Maria - Sophie Tilton
It's considered an honor and a privilege to serve in the Royal Trio, and it's a tradition that has now existed since the first trio was chosen for the Easter Festival in 1959, with a new trio being chosen every year. St. Augustine’s Easter Festival includes several other events in the week leading up to Easter Sunday.
Leading up to Easter Sunday, St. Augustine’s “Royal Family” will present heritage celebrations throughout the city, with The Blessing of the Fleet on Sunday, April 9, following Palm Sunday Mass, and the Royal Knighting Ceremony on Monday, April 10, where the “Royal Family” will recognize members of the community for their contributions to St. Augustine.
The Easter Parade Today
Photo courtesy of Jackie Hird.
The Easter Parade continues to grow in popularity and in scope. This year’s parade will feature the Florida A&M University Marching Band (all 180 of them!), sponsored by the Willie Galimore FAMU National Alumni Chapter.
Two grand marshals will lead the 2017 parade, both NFL place kickers who attended high school here in St. Augustine. Cairo Santos graduated from St. Joseph's Academy and now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs. Caleb Sturgis, who graduated from St. Augustine High School, is now the place kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles. Cairo and Caleb will both remain at the Visitor Information Center after the parade to sign autographs.
The Easter Parade begins at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 16, 2017, stepping off just north of the Mission of Nombre de Dios (27 Ocean Ave. St. Augustine, FL 32084) and heading south along San Marco Avenue and Avenida Menendez to the Plaza de la Constitución.
The Easter Parade is run completely by volunteers, with significant help from Old Town Trolley Tours, which organizes the parade down to every detail. It’s hard to imagine a better way to spend the afternoon of Easter Sunday than sitting on a curb or lounging against a tree, watching the parade go by on a beautiful spring day.
Click here for information on all the events happening around Easter in St. Augustine.