Few South Florida cultural institutions have stood the test of time through the decades. As shifting tastes have affected the popularity of local oddities, many traditions that were once cherished and taken for granted have lost their relevancy. Take, for instance, the Orange Bowl Parade: What was once the biggest and most popular public parade in the Magic City eventually fell victim to what the Miami Herald in 2002 called "financial anemia, general malaise, and changing times."
That a spoof of said parade has lasted longer and become more popular than the original is a testament to Miami’s penchant for outlandish, entertaining tomfoolery in public settings. The King Mango Strut, now in its 38th year, is set to take over Coconut Grove Sunday, December 29, with an even stronger parodic spirit than the one that animated the inaugural event in 1982.
The irreverent nature of the King Mango Strut can be traced to its origins in the 1970s. Founder Glenn Terry formed the Mango Marching Band, which consisted of so-called musicians who played conch shells and kazoos in Coconut Grove’s Bahamian-style Goombay Festival, in 1976. After a few years of performing at Goombay, Terry aspired to enter the Mango Marching Band in the ultrapopular Orange Bowl Parade. He sent an audition tape for the 1981 procession but was rejected, prompting him to create his own parade. The new jamboree was designed to celebrate the wackiness of Miami by poking fun at the most eye-catching news stories of the year.
Modeled on the kooky Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, the inaugural King Mango Strut in 1982 sent a small group of performers and paraders into the streets of Coconut Grove. The parade, which takes place the last Sunday of every year, strives to generate laughs at the wild, ridiculous, and so-unbelievable-it-has-to-be-true things that have happened in the past 12 months. Now that Donald Trump has become only the third U.S. president to be impeached, the 2019 edition of the King Mango Strut will have a wealth of material from which to pull.
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It’s easy to make fun of events that happen on a national level, but being able to laugh at yourself and your city is what makes the King Mango Strut so beloved by its faithful attendees. Rick Scott, Hurricane Irma, and red tide are just a few of the local subjects that have been broached by the parade's strutters. This year, there's a very strong chance you'll see participants poking fun at ongoing butts of jokes such as David Beckham’s soccer-stadium pipe dream and the infamous Art Basel banana.
The local chapter of the Sierra Club has consistently produced the King Mango Strut’s most socially conscious spectacles, and past presentations have included an urban sprawl monster and FPL solar power vampires. Even though the organization works tirelessly to educate and enact change around the climate crisis that's affecting South Florida and the rest of the world, its show — like most of the sights you'll see at the King Mango Strut — is ultimately designed to help us find the humor in a world that's falling apart at a dizzying rate.
Arrive early and bring a folding chair if you want a front-row seat at this year’s King Mango festivities. There's no telling what crazy antics the parade will offer this year, but half the fun is the joy of finding out.