Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It's a Beaches Blast Annual Party Celebrates Shore's Opening

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It's a Beaches Blast Annual Party Celebrates Shore's Opening

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer

Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis -- or at least a couple of colorful look-a-likes -- will shake, rattle and roll tomorrow as their 48-foot float drifts down Third Street with the Opening of the Beaches Parade.

Impersonators Vernon Larsen and Wayne Smith and their rollicking caravan will be among 13 floats and 86 participants in the parade that starts at 2 p.m.

They will join the tropical Beaches A1A Parrot Head Club, goofy-looking Gator Clowns of Jacksonville and the menacing Vikings on the Sons of Norway, Lodge 541 float, among others.

The parade and its American-tribute theme will highlight the 56th annual Beaches Opening and Festival, an event that marks the official opening of the Beaches.

The festival kicks off today with a sand castle contest at 9 a.m. and a schedule of live Caribbean and blues music, a crafts market and a plethora of barbecue, seafood, Southern and Cajun foods. The festival is centered on the SeaWalk Pavilion and the beach in downtown Jacksonville Beach.

Smith, a truck driver from Jacksonville, said he's been told he looks more like Jerry Lee Lewis than Lewis himself. The deeply accented Southerner will dramatize his look with a red cape and American flag draped over the grill of his 15-foot tractor-trailer truck.

Smith admits he can't play piano or sing like the 66-year-old rock 'n' roll legend, whose hits Great Balls of Fire and Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On were the first to top pop, country and western and R&B charts.

"I look just like Jerry Lee Lewis, but I'm just not as wild as he was," said Smith, referring in part to Lewis' 1958 marriage to his 13-year-old second cousin.

Like Smith, Lori Yelton and the Beaches A1A Parrot Head Club aren't building their floats until today because they lack the storage space to work on them ahead of time.

Parrot Heads range in age from 20 to 80 and share a love of Jimmy Buffett music. Club members plan to scarf down hamburgers and hotdogs with Buffett hits such as Margaritaville playing in the background as they created the ambiance of a sunset pier and Key West on their float. Last year, their float carried a crashed plane on a remote tropical island, reflecting the theme of a Buffett novel. …

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