There are multiple ways of celebrating Fat Tuesday hereabouts, including the legendary Dunedin parade. But the event with the most eccentric appeal (and what would Mardi Gras be without a little flagrant eccentricity?) is the Ybor Merchants Association’s Annual James E. Rooster Parade, a New Orleans-style jazz procession (known as the Rooster Funeral) that stops at participating Ybor City establishments for #MardiGras themed food & drink specials. Yes, there is drink involved. Ybor? A parade? Without a bar hop? What, are you crazy?
Chickens and roosters wander freely through Ybor, of course — charming to most, intensely annoying to some. But they’re a tradition, whatever you think of them, and the parade is both an homage to the fowl population at large and a tribute to the late, lamented James E. by his former owner, Tommy Stephens — established, we’re told, “following the bird’s untimely demise in the jaws of a dog in 1997.”
It’s all free and open to the public, though you have to pay for those drinks, and you must be 21+ to get into those drinking establishments. Costumes with a Mardi Gras or chicken theme are “highly encouraged,” as well as an abundance of beads, flowers, and cowbells. Because chickens like beads. Or something.
5:30 p.m.: Funeral wake at The Dirty Shame, 1929 E. 7th Ave., Ybor City, Tampa.
6 p.m.: The band, pallbearers, marching band and guests assemble in The Dirty Shame courtyard to begin the Chicken Parade down Ybor’s historic 7th Avenue.