St. Augustine Easter Parade

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Today, the Easter Parade winds through the downtown streets of St. Augustine with the Easter Bunny riding in a convertible. He is escorted by marching bands, clowns, and decorated floats as the Parade Marshal leads the Royal Trio and their Entourage along with them.

In the 1950s, however, the parade was a place for designers to show off the latest fashions, namely Easter hats. On February 16, 1958, Mrs. Mildred Berry from St. Augustine stumped the panel on the television show What’s My Line? for six minutes. Determining that she worked with horses, they could not imagine that Mrs. Berry made hats for the horses, owned by the Colee family, to wear for the Easter parade.

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Since the mid-1950s, the Easter Bonnets have interested visitors to the city. The Easter Parade was sanctioned as an official event 1957 and Berry organized the hat parade as part of the Easter Festival, overseeing the creation of the decorative hats worn by the horses that drew sightseeing carriages, owned by the Colee family.

 

 

 

Through four generations of ownership, the Colees started the St. Augustine Transfer Company in 1877. It survived the transition to the aSt. Augustine Easter Parade 9utomobile by changing their focus to sightseeing tours. The drivers of the carriages were traditionally black men, recognizable by their top hats and decorated carriages. The most notable drivers included Henry Martin, Major Argrett, Andrew Walker, and Arthur Mitchell; each of whom drove for the Colee family for decades.

These men were a staple in the area for decades, and like sightseeing tour guides today, were known to pass the stories of the city along to their passengers. According to Andrew Walker, “it would be a calamity if the carriages should ever be taken off the streets. ‘I know they’re a nuisance to the autos. I drive a car myself and I know. But it just wouldn’t be St. Augustine without them.’” It’s no surprise that these hard-working men and their horses became a distinguished feature in the Easter displays.

 

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In 1960, during the Third Annual Easter Week Festival, Victoria Broadbent joined Mildred Berry as a horse hat designer to create a fashion show displaying the captivating hobby of horse hat making. Their creations complemented the carriage décor designed by Marie Ford and Eileen Hayes, both on the Easter committee. The parade would boast 20 decorated horse carriages featuring the Royal entourage and horses wearing the latest hat fashions.

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In 1965, “La Parada de los Caballos y Coches” (The Parade of Horses and Carriages) transitioned to prominent women in St. Augustine making horse hat contributions. Many of the horse hats were sponsored by city officials and their spouses.

 

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The Easter Committee continues to plan Easter Week festivities in St. Augustine, including the parade. The Promenade allows residents to sport their Easter dress and win in categories such as Best Easter Hat, Best Dressed Family, Best Dressed Pet. Their invitation includes “Why not join us “In Your Easter Bonnet, With All the Frills Upon It?”” The Royal Trio has been commemorated every year since 1959, and represents St. Augustine through the year both locally and across the country. Those who donate their time and volunteer for the community and the Easter Festival are also knighted in recognition of their hard work and commitment to St. Augustine. Regardless of the year, decade, or century, Easter in St. Augustine continues to be a special time of celebration for the city.