SoMa 501

Sixty parade floats, 90 vendors, 10 food trucks, mermaids from the Netflix documentary series “MerPeople” and more will descend on South Main Street in Little Rock’s historic SoMa district on Saturday for the 14th annual SoMardi Gras parade.

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UPDATE: Festival organizers have changed the start time of the block party from 10:30 a.m to 9 a.m. on account of rain in the forecast. The parade will now begin at 10 a.m. rather than the originally scheduled noon start time. The parade procession runs from the corner of South Main and 24th streets to 12th Street.

The event is free and open to the public. The block party ends at 5 p.m. 3 p.m. SoMa officials expect the parade to last for an hour and a half. Here’s a list of parade tips from SoMa 501:

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The parade’s theme this year is “SoMa Under the Sea” which should be no surprise given the famous mermaids in attendance. Elizabeth Michael, executive director of SoMa 501, said the theme was selected in a democratic fashion after sending a list of suggested themes to the SoMa Business and Merchants Association. The U.S. Coast Guard deployed a boat to be featured at the event, Michael said.

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The parade’s sponsor, Subaru, will be bringing a 20-foot inflatable dog that SoMa officials are already calling “Mardi Paw” to watch over the parade. The event will feature a Shrimp Kids Zone with bouncy houses, face painting and mermaids.

The most luscious, inventive beards you’ll likely see in one place all year will be on display following the parade at Bernice Garden for the 11th annual Beard and Mustache Contest, hosted by The Root Cafe. The categories: Best Natural Beard Over 6-Inches, Best Natural Beard Under 6-Inches, Best Mustache, Best Groomed Beard, Most Original Beard and Best DIY Crafted Beard.

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The Root Cafe

 

The block party will feature a live performance from The Rodney Block Collective. Michael said four beers will be available on tap, including a Mardi Gras-themed beer from Stone’s Throw Brewing. Rock Town Distillery will be on hand slinging Hurricane cocktails. There will even be Mardi Gras-themed dog treats from Bow Wow & Meow Bakery & Boutique.

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Bow Wow & Meow Bakery & Boutique

 

Parade attendees can also pop into the restaurants on the Main Street corridor for SoMardi Gras specials. The Bagel Shop will be posted up in a tent in front of the restaurant (1501 Main St.) selling mini king cake slices and bagel muffuletta sandwiches.

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Press Waffle Co. will be selling a limited number of seats on its patio for parade views and The Busker will have tables set up along its street-facing windows, Michael said. Additionally, Community Bakery and Stone’s Throw Brewing have teamed up on a beer and king cake special for Fat Tuesday.

New to the parade this year is a pre-party bash on Friday night at Midtown Billiards from 6-9 p.m. featuring food, a silent auction and music from Butterfly from New Orleans. Michael said the money raised from the bash will go towards the Pride-themed rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of 12th and Main streets between Community Bakery and Rock Town Distillery.

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After the parade, the first place ($500) and second place ($250) float winners will be announced, along with a $250 prize for best performance and a $250 prize for best marching band.

The SoMardi Gras Parade is SoMa 501’s biggest fundraiser event of the year. Last year’s parade had about 40 floats and 40 vendors, Michael said, so this year’s expected to be much bigger.

“I wasn’t around when the parade first started out,” Michael said, “but people told me last year that it was the biggest one ever, and they remember from its early days when it was just 50 people standing in the street and there were two or three floats. So I think this just shows the commitment of the people of SoMa to have something unique and fun for the neighborhood.”