Video: King Mango Strut 2015
The only thing that would stop Peter Rowe from attending the King Mango Strut?
“Cardiac arrest,” said the 73-year-old.
Rowe has been a part of the parade in some form or another since 1983. In the beginning he helped put up street barricades, but now he considers himself a tenured “disorganizer.”
He wore rainbow tie-dyed socks, shorts and an orange T-shirt that said “King Mango Volunteer” and “Don’t tase me, bro.”
His face and gray beard were flecked with glitter — “I don’t know where that came from” — as he explained that for him, the King Mango Strut is all about self-expression.
“If you can’t come here and feel free, where can you?” he said.
The King Mango Strut began as a parody of the Orange Bowl’s parade, the King Orange Jamboree in 1982.
On Sunday, nothing was safe as the Coconut Grove parade celebrated its 34th anniversary with ISIS, guns, Donald Trump and a “running of the bullsh---ers.”
A crowd of colorfully costumed adults ran with the ISIS theme. Some were dressed as “Italian ISIS” in huge gelato cups, others wore the feathered wings and headdress of Egyptian goddesses Isis, and one glitter-covered man wore nothing but a larger-than-life ice cube around his hips.
Politicos of all shapes and sizes made an appearance in one form or another.
Parade celebrity Ken Russell, Miami's District 2 commissioner, hung out of a red convertible doing yo-yo tricks as a nod to his father, Jack Russell, who patented an early version of the yo-yo.
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado began the parade with the customary banana drop.
A couple dressed as Bill and Hillary Clinton made a few appearances. Bill wore a chef’s apron labeled “Commander in Chef” and a tag reading “First ladies man” on his back.
The most popular politico punching bag was Trump.
A man dressed in hazmat gear hawked a jar with Trump’s brain inside, suspended in fluid.
“Perfect condition,” he shouted. “Never been used!”
A gaggle of neon wig and tutu-clad adults pranced behind a Trump-masked man — the “Trump trolls.”
Throughout it all, the emcee of the event narrated the floats, introducing the audience to the characters and sometimes joining in on the skits.
At one point, he moved the mic toward a child in the crowd.
“Do you know what a juggler does?” he asked, leaning toward the little boy.
“A person who throws balls in the air and catches them,” the child said.
The emcee straightened up, beaming at the crowd.
“Exactly,” he said. “Unlike the Miami Dolphins.”
The crowd roared with laughter.
Plenty of children were in the audience, but most of the jokes relied on knowledge of topical news. Parade newcomer Brian Hetrich, 55, admits he had to Google some of the topics, including the identity of the parade’s grand marshal, Kim Davis.
“It’s so much more entertaining than a conventional parade,” he said. “You could make fun of anything.”
Coconut Grove residents say the parade represents their city’s roots as a weird, fun place.
“The city’s gone from hippie to yuppie,” Ricki Lane said.
But the parade has kept Coconut Grove a little bit weird, she said.
Other audience members felt the parade pulled punches.
“Everybody was trying to be politically correct,” Laurie Downs said. “It could have been edgier.”
Downs and her husband David have attended the parade for more than 10 years. This year they chose to skip a canoe ecoadventure in favor of the parody parade.
“We’re glad we did,” she said. The couple arrived two hours early, poured themselves vodka with cranberry juice and contemplated joining the parade next year.
“If we’re guaranteed cool weather and costumes,” Downs said.
But Rowe said the parade is a good time no matter what you’re wearing or what temperature it is outside. It’s a no judgment zone, he said.
“It’s almost like being a nudist,” he said. “It’s not about looking good, it’s about feeling good.”