BELIZE VERSION: Throw Me Something, Mister!

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on December 12, 2017. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

If you have had the opportunity to experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you may be familiar with the saying, “Throw me something, Mister!”  It’s what the children sitting in their ladder seats shout to the float riders who are slowly crawling by, with the hopes of being a recipient of a cool new throw.

Throw Me Something, Mister!

In Belize, the children shout, “Gimme sweets!”  

Sunday night was the 7th annual LoveFM Christmas Parade on Ambergris Caye, Belize.  It’s an anticipated evening – especially for the sweet-toothed children (and adults).  Holiday-themed floats (mostly golf carts) slowly roll down Middle Street, looping up to Front Street, with riders throwing candy and goodies to the cheering bystanders.  Pump-up music blares from the loud speakers, groups perform synchronized dances, and popular costumed characters wave to the onlookers.

A few days before the event, Rotaractors were invited to participate in the festive evening alongside our mentors, the Rotary Club of Ambergris Caye.  We were responsible for decorating the vehicle and they’d have the rest covered.  It sounded easy enough.

After some back and forth, the Decorating Committee, 7 Rotaracts, was established.  We determined what we wanted to do and, between all of us, were confident we’d have all the materials necessary.

Throw Me Something, Mister!

Some members of the Decorating Committee.

The committee decided to meet at 1pm at Wayo’s, a beachfront hot spot, which was also where the lineup was going to start around 4:30pm to prepare the cart.  We figured it would us give enough “fluff room,” in the event we needed to pick up any last-minute décor.  Thankfully we did.

Throw Me Something, Mister!

Wayo’s & Ambergris’ “coastal highway,” pre-lineup.

In typical Belize fashion, most of the group didn’t show up until 1:30, 1:45, 2’ish.  We needed to purchase heavy-duty wire to hold the boxes to the roof of the cart. Our elected Santa still needed to get a costume.  The battery pack for the string lights hadn’t been delivered and our contact was MIA.

Luckily, Wayo’s is in town and we were able to get to the hardware store in a few-minute walk.  Santa picked up his outfit at Island City, the closest equivalent we have to a Wal-Mart.  And our contact with the battery had finally arrived.  After 2.5 hours of intense wrapping, paper cutting, wire twisting, tree decorating, and light hanging, we let out a sigh of relief and excitedly took a final look at the cart…only to notice it was looking a bit lopsided.  Was there too much weight on one side?  Was the tree just crooked?  I did a walk around the cart only to notice the back left tire was flat.

At this point, we were a few minutes from when the float lineup was supposed to begin.  Because we weren’t going to make it to the gas station, I asked my new friend, who I met at Wayo’s while waiting for the group and who happened to live right next door, if he had a pump.  He did.  He went home to grab it and we started pumping.  But the pump was a dud.

A member of the island’s professional walking pub crawlers, The Walkaholics, who was also in the parade, was observing our struggles and came over to us with a compressor.  He mentioned he had it for precautionary measures due to last year’s experiences.  He hooked us up, and 5 minutes later our tire was like new.  The good news, he told us, was that he was right behind us in the lineup, should we have any difficulty.  I knocked on wood anyway.

Throw Me Something, Mister!

Notice the compressor…

We had heard all sorts of stories regarding vehicle troubles during the parade.  Golf carts often ran out of gas and batteries die, resulting in being pushed to the finish line.  Decorations fall off, shattering as they hit the stone ground.  Tires pop from the excess weight.  Candy runs out before reaching the end.  Generators die, leaving the cart dark.  A whole plethora of scenarios to potentially look forward to, and we were already getting a taste of it… before the event even started.

Throw Me Something, Mister!

Some of the Decorating Committee.

Sometimes you need a few bumps in the road to make it to smoother terrain.  Once we lined up, the rest went swimmingly well.  More Rotaracts joined us to walk beside the cart and hand out candy, our Bluetooth speaker played cheerful Belizean Christmas music, and we saw many familiar faces in the crowd.  There was an amazing mix of excited locals, curious visitors, and supportive expats.  Thousands of people, from young kids to grandparents, were cheering for sweets from the sidewalk, and Santa and I generously threw them.  Perhaps a bit too generously, because by the last quarter of the parade route, we ran out of candy and instead were passing along big waves and smiles.  As a new club getting chartered, even without candy, we were excited to make our debut in the community.

Just as everything was going well, right before looping up to Front Street, one of the Rotary carts in front of us ran out of gas.  Luckily, we were towards the end and were able to shuffle around.  Our cart adopted the Rotary banner and, for the last bit, we led the team.

Throw Me Something, Mister!

Our Rotaract cart with Santa.

Because we were in the parade, we didn’t see the other floats, however, this was the biggest and most extravagant parade to date – lasting about three and a half hours.  There were 21 groups being represented, and many with multiple floats.  Some of the highlights this year were Caribbean Garifuna Jankunu (John Canoe) dancers, the girls from SHINE (a non-profit for empowering young females in the community) dressed as angels & ballerinas, Olaf (from the Disney movie “Frozen”), dancing sharks & snowmen, and little drummer boys leading the town council float.

Throw Me Something, Mister!Photo credit to Kanan Brode

Throw Me Something, Mister!

Post-parade shot of the SHINE co-founders, Britney & Michelle, Betsy Rosenlund, and their ballerinas and angels.

To cap off the spirited night, my friend and I stopped by a local hole-in-the-wall/mom-and-pop shop for burritos that he Consumer Resource Guideinsisted were the best on the island.  The place was

packed, and after taking my first bite into the enormous chicken burrito, I understood why.  It was hands down one of the tastiest, most flavorful burritos I have had in Belize.  And the best part?  It was only $2 USD.

Even after five and a half years, Belize continues to amaze me.  Seeing the community come together on Sunday night to celebrate happiness and life was incredibly uplifting.  I’ve mentioned this before in past articles (and you’ll probably hear it from me again), but it’s the people that make the experience.  And the people of Ambergris Caye truly deserve recognition for their friendliness and warmth.

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on December 12, 2017. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.