Dunedin Mardi Gras: Drunks, drunks everywhere but not a drop of beer fit to drink

As I approached Main Street, the music became louder, and the smokiness of grilling clouded my eyes. Most importantly, I could sense the distinct aroma of beer in the nighttime breeze. I began to think about how many tickets to buy - you have to buy tickets to buy beer -- and decided enough for two beers would be an acceptable start.

It was still relatively early, only around 8:30, but there was already an impressive range of amateur and unseasoned drunks -- argument drunks, lover drunks, sloppy drunks, silly drunks, recently divorced middle-aged drunks - all gathered in one place at various stages of trainwreck-bound drunkenness. If I was searching for parade beads or blinky neon necklaces, I would have been set, but I was searching for something of the brewed varietal. Around me, all hands were full of beer. Occasionally a smaller cup of wine, but it was mostly huge plastic cups of beer - where was my beer?

Tickets in hand, five feet tall and lacking personal space, I weaved through the barricaded streets, only to discover that my adult beverage options were limited to Budweiser, Bud Light, Shock Top, Landshark, and wine. Surely this cannot be, so I continued to wander.

Popped collar drink-athon douchebags mingled with groups of haggard cougars out on the man hunt, but I couldn't stop to observe societal norms in suspension. I was too busy looking for a good beer. Hell, at that point, I would've settled for decent beer. As I continued to wind my way through the massive crowd of highly intoxicated people, I'd spot a beer truck far off in the distance, hoping it was the Dunedin Brewery or anything import, but it always turned out to be the same lineup. Alas, there was nothing there for a lonely beer snob. Totally denied. Were all these people thoroughly sauced on macro-brew garbage? Sadly, yes.

So I did the only thing a reasonable person could do -- I hustled away some of my beer tickets to the poor, crappy beer drinking suckers who don't know any better. Then I bought a soft pretzel, slopped mustard all over it, and made a mental note to bring my own cooler next year.

Sociologists note that festivals, including events like parades, involve the temporary suspension of societal norms. In these liminal settings, the individual is permitted to conduct themselves outside the conventions of acceptable behavior. This includes being loud, overeating, becoming drunk, or dancing — or some wicked hedonistic combination of all the aforementioned. The activities associated with Mardi Gras exemplify festival centered norm suspension, even Mardi Gras as it occurs in PG rated format on the main drag of a charming little town in Pinellas County with a high concentration of Scottish residents.

Last night, myself and roughly 30,000 other people descended into downtown Dunedin, some trampling flower beds and littering profusely. As an avid fan of outdoor drinking events, people watching opportunities, and yummy things like kettle corn and funnel cakes, I usually have a riotously enjoyable time at Dunedin Mardi Gras. The plan is always something like grab a few brews from the Dunedin tent and wander the crowded streets looking at this strange swarm of people, making sure to peer into the window of the pet grooming shop to say hi to the kitties that live there.

This was the tentative agenda for last night. Little did I know, I was about to face epic disappointment.

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