Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared South Florida a Zika-free zone. Is there no safe space for a hot-yoga pants-wearing South Beach mosquito like Antoinette Baldwin?
There's one. It's a stretch of Main Highway in the Grove, where Baldwin and a swarm of costumed South Beach- and Wynwood-themed mosquitoes will march this Saturday, Dec. 31, during the city's King Mango Strut parade. Trailing these pesky mosquitoes will be WLRN senior producer Richard Ives, dressed as Gov. Scott, who will bark into a loudspeaker that Zika has been banned in South Florida.
"He's the mosquito whisperer. You do not fly here or here," says Baldwin, whose South Beach-inspired mosquito costume includes a yoga mat. "We'll just be a big swarm being chased away by Gov. Scott."
If "Saturday Night Live" ever staged a parade, it might resemble the King Mango Strut, Coconut Grove's annual ode to weirdness and political satire. For its 35th edition, more than 130 costumed acts and parade floats will send up the year's headlines, roast politicians such as Donald Trump and poke fun at topical news such as medical marijuana and Pokemon GO.
"It's just one day of the year that, at least here in Miami, you get to make fun of all the things that drive you crazy, the absurdities of life," says Baldwin, who organized the Strut for 14 years until 2009, and has worn costumes in the parade since the early 1990s. "It's a coping mechanism."
The King Mango Strut started in 1982 as a parody of the Orange Bowl's parade, the King Orange Jamboree, after the Jamboree banned Coconut Grove residents Glenn Terry and Bill Dobson from playing kazoos while wearing conch shells on their heads. So they created their own raunchy parade, led by an oversize, inflated mango, says Mike Lucas, the Strut's current organizer.
"I enjoy the idea of a satirical parade run by amateurs that picks on everybody," Lucas says. "We all get to indulge our little anarchistic artistes. For the city, it means a little tourism, showing off the funny side of Miami."
The Strut comes together at monthly parade meetings in the Grove, during which Lucas and other volunteers — the organization became a nonprofit in 2009 — float ideas spun from news headlines. President-elect Trump is, of course, a popular punching bag, as is Gov. Scott and deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Nothing's really taboo, Lucas explains, so long as the execution is "rated PG."
Sometimes, the Strut's sendup of politicians is too much. "One year, we had a [late Toronto Mayor] Rob Ford impersonator as our grand marshal, and someone from the Toronto Star called to verify he was down there," Lucas recalls. "I was like, 'Really?' You'd figure people would realize he wasn't there, especially when [Miami Mayor Tomas] Regalado was giving Rob Ford the crack pipe to the city and the Pope was giving him a bong."
This year's grand marshal is Luther Campbell (of provocative Miami rap group 2 Live Crew), and behind him will be contestants in the Little Miss and Little King Mango pageants and costumed acts. This year's acts, posted on King Mango Strut's website, include groups costumed as Skittles, a reference to Donald Trump Jr.'s disparagement of Syrian refugees; a float in the shape of a Trump University degree; and Castro's coffin.
The King Mango Strut parade will take place 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, in Coconut Grove, kicking off at Commodore Plaza and continuing along Main Highway and Grand Avenue. Admission is free, and the parade will be livestreamed via ArtsandCultureTV.com. Call 305-582-0955 or go to KingMangoStrut.org.
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