Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Marys Courts Festival Fame; Organizers Hope the City's Mardi Gras Celebration Will Be Sanctioned as an Official Super Bowl Event

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Marys Courts Festival Fame; Organizers Hope the City's Mardi Gras Celebration Will Be Sanctioned as an Official Super Bowl Event

Article excerpt

Byline: Gordon Jackson, The Times-Union

ST. MARYS -- Many consider Saturday's Mardi Gras celebration in St. Marys as a tuneup for a bigger event less than a year from now: Super Bowl XXXIX.

The biggest one-day sporting event in the world will be held in Jacksonville next year, but Mardi Gras organizers in St. Marys hope to impress Super Bowl XXXIX host committee members this weekend who plan to be in town to watch the festival.

A good impression could result in the festival's designation as an officially sanctioned Super Bowl XXXIX event -- drawing sports fans from across the world to St. Marys.

"We are pretty sure we'll be sanctioned," said Janet Brinko, the city's tourism director. "It's [the festival] already in place. That's how I sold it."

Nikki Epley, director of special events for the Jacksonville Super Bowl XXXIX Host Committee, did not return telephone messages for comment Wednesday. But Brinko said Epley was encouraging to city officials about the chances to get Mardi Gras designated a host event.

If the festival isn't designated an official Super Bowl event, that won't change any plans to hold the event in 2005 on the day before the Super Bowl, Brinko said. The city's Mardi Gras festival is always scheduled the Saturday before Fat Tuesday, Brinko said.

Linda McCrossin, an event organizer in charge of the parade, said as many as 100 entries are expected. This year's theme is "Superheroes and Villains," McCrossin said.

"Every day, more people are wanting to get into the parade," McCrossin said. "It looks wonderful."

Nearly 120 vendors' booths will line the city's downtown streets near the waterfront, where the bulk of activities are scheduled, said Rosemary Rillo, coordinator of arts and crafts vendors.

After the street festival ends, people will have enough time to prepare for the costume ball scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Colonial Dinner House, Rillo said. A limited number of tickets are still available at Colonial Dinner House and cost $30 apiece.

Parade entries this year will include the Incredible Hulk, Batman and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Another entry, by Lisa Allen's Dance Works, is likely to garner some attention: the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the movie Ghostbusters. …

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