Organizers cancel 36th annual Mardi Gras Parade in Rubonia

RUBONIA -- Rubonia is canceling the 36th annual Mardi Gras Parade due to financial difficulties, an official said Tuesday.

The parade, which usually takes place in the north Manatee County hamlet of Rubonia, encountered serious financial difficulties and organizers agreed Sunday to skip 2015 and try again next year, said Charles L. Miller Jr., president of sponsoring Rubonia/Terra Ceia Mardi Gras Inc.

The parade, which last year attracted a crowd of about 15,000 and in some years has drawn as many as 30,000, has been taking place since 1980, said Miller.

It began when a small band of friends, the Krewe of the Mystic Rainbow, assembled a few makeshift floats and marched through Rubonia, Miller said.

"It's been going on 35 years, and God, I hate to postpone or cancel it because I've been involved with it all my life," said Miller, who was born and raised in Rubonia in northern Manatee County.

"We're not getting the support we need," added Miller. "A couple of people help us on a yearly basis, but the cost of putting it on is a bigger demand than we can handle. ... We want to take a step back and regroup, and come back next year to go forth with it."

Last year, the organization asked for $2 per person to defray expenses, but even then funds ran short, said Miller.

Manatee County Commissioner Charles B. Smith, who grew up with Miller in Rubonia, said he was surprised to hear the parade would not take place.

"I'm stunned at what you're telling me," he said.

Smith said he had been dismayed at the lack of understanding about the festive event in the primarily black community, adding: "This is why you have the Ferguson (Mo.) case going."

"The issue last year was the treatment of local churches

and the community. It was completely disrespectful," said Smith after a workshop meeting at county administrative center.

The Mardi Gras Parade has been hamstrung by government decisions, such as shortened hours that cut down the profit vendors could make, and requirements from the sheriff's office for more security than necessary, said Smith.

When asked about Smith's complaints, Miller declined comment.

Another who complained was Morris Goff, who was at the county center to discuss the future of the closed Rubonia Community Center. Last year, they stopped it so early, the vendors didn't make any money," said Goff.

"I'm sad," Goff said. "I think it could be coordinated a little better."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.