Doug Blom of Biloxi has been building floats for the Gulf Coast Carnival Association (GCCA) for 37 years.
Blom has witnessed many changes to the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s beloved Mardi Gras floats over the years. He recalls a time when floats were smaller in size and didn’t have music or restrooms on them.
“Mardi Gras gets bigger and bigger every year here on the Coast,” and naturally, so do the floats.
“Building a float is like building a house on a trailer. It has to be stable,” Blom explained.
Mardi Gras floats hold at least 20 people, plus thousands of beads to be thrown and ice chests. Blom takes great pride in building quality floats that are safe and festive.
“You know, people start partying, and the float starts rocking,” he said.
During Hurricane Katrina, one of his most memorable moments with the GCCA was when “the floats actually floated!” Blom remembers vividly seeing them upside down, floating down the street in about 12 feet of water. Fortunately, nearly half of them were salvaged and used again for the following year’s festivities.
After building 50+ floats throughout his time, Blom reminisces on his first Mardi Gras parade experience like it was yesterday. It also happens to be his favorite memory as it was a true learning experience.
“We built a large 3D dragon on a float, with a moving head. When the wings lifted, I didn’t realize that the float would then pull over for the king to touch the queen during the parade,” he said. “Suddenly, I saw that the dragon head was in the stands and people had to move out of the way. I made sure to get that fixed.”
Blom’s expertise is sought after often to build floats for the casinos as well. It takes him a few months to complete each one, and he feels “great pride and relief to watch them go by.”
Although the floats are housed in the “Float Den” during the off-season, Blom believes that Mardi Gras is a culture that lasts all year long.
“We are always planning and preparing for the next year,” he said. “Mardi Gras brings Biloxi together. People of all cultures, occupations, and status come to enjoy the parades and festivities.”