Behind the Mask: Pensacola Mardi Gras' king and queen have 'royal' roots

Photo source: Channel 3's Kathryn Daniel

Ready for some royalty? We don't even have to hop the pond to find a dose of nobility. Each Mardi Gras krewe selects a king and queen. From that court, one of each is chosen to reign over all of Pensacola's Carnival events.

Pensacola's reigning king and queen of Mardi Gras were born for this.

"Originally from New Orleans West Bank," said Brian Williams. His wife Cristina continued, "As a little girl we used to line the streets up on Canal Street on little ladders with our family waiting on the floats to come down the street. It was the best time."

Cristina and Brian Williams even met on Bourbon Street. The couple often vacationed along our corner of the coast. They moved here full time in 2004.

Cristina explained, "We would always go home for Mardi Gras, but then we realized that Mardi Gras was here also and it was just as great here as it was in New Orleans."

The Williams co-founded the Krewe of SWAT with Madrina and Mark Ciano. SWAT is an active, community-minded krewe. When the Williams were designated as this season's royalty, Madrina Ciano was thrilled.

She said, "She just carries herself very well and she's very gracious."

Queenly traits for sure, but these royals work. SWAT serves the Pace Center for Girls, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Gulf Coast Kids House and Manna Food Bank, just to name a few area non-profit organizations.

Their Carnival roots go deep. Cristina's godfather created lavish gowns for many Crescent City queens for decades. Brian's connection is just as personal.

"My uncle was the grand marshal. My family has been saving doubloons since I was a kid."

Doubloons are the most coveted parade throw in the "Big Easy." They're known as the "currency of pirates."

He expanded, "When you hear that metal "ting" on the ground, the whole crowd goes on the ground."

New Orleans krewes commission new ones each year, but doubloons haven't quite caught on here. The Williams had special ones made commemorating their reign, look for them flying off the Krewe of SWAT's float, The Beast. They hope the tradition sticks.

Their crowns get retired next week but cherished memories of childhood dreams fulfilled will linger forever.

Brian grinned, "We pinched ourselves probably once a week this year."

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