Krewe of Lafitte kicks off Mardi Gras weekend in Pensacola

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They are the largest all male krewe in Pensacola, and they ride tonight in Downtown Pensacola in their signature event, "The Krewe of Lafitte Illuminated Parade." They are the "granddaddy" of all Pensacola Krewes, founded way back in 1954. "One of our board members, his grandfather was a Lafitte, his father was a Lafitte, hopefully he will be a Lafitte," said Ron Westmoreland. He's an eight year member of the Krewe and sits on its Board of Directors.

"Lafitte" is the top "gentleman pirate" of the Krewe. Seven decades of them grace their meeting room walls, reminding members of their history and tradition. "This isn't a hobby for some people. It's a family lifestyle," Westmoreland observed. He said that over the last several years, Lafitte members have turned their attention to fundraising. Their main charity is the "Pirates for Prostates" Golf Tournament they sponsor each year.

Almost year round, members design, build and redo their 13 illuminated floats. They're stored in two warehouses and some go back twenty years or more. Westmoreland said that with 250 members, they can always find the right artisan or professional for any task the Krewe needs done, pulling from a talented, dedicated group of men. "This isn't the only organization for a lot of these folks. We have Shriners, we have people who are on the boards of directors. These are not the 'just having a good time', these are leaders in our community," he shared.

Each season, those same leaders dress up in full pirate regalia and take their floats to folks who can't make it downtown. "We'll go to special needs, ARC Pensacola, some of the nursing homes, the Ronald McDonald House, the hospital and we'll go in there during the Mardi Gras season, so those folks get to feel the season the way we do," Westmoreland said.

The Krewe of Lafitte Parade kicks off Friday at 7:30 in Downtown Pensacola.

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