Annual Caerus Mardi Gras parade rolls through Midtown Saturday, Feb. 15

By STAFF REPORTS,

The 9th Annual Caerus Mardi Gras Parade will roll at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.

Spectators are invited to come early, and “come hungry,” according to Melissa Saucier of Keith’s Superstores, sponsors of the annual event.

“Expect to see and feel the magic of Mardi Gras as beads and trinkets rain down over the crowds,” she said.

Leading this year’s parade will be the Hattiesburg Fire Department, the Southern Miss cheerleaders, the Honey Island Clydesdales and the Southern Miss Dixie Darling.

As always, the parade rolls south from 4th Street and the frontage road along U.S. 49 to Hardy Street before taking a right through Midown and ending at Morningside Drive.

To register a float or marching group, email hburgmardigrasparade@yahoo.com

There is no entry fee to participate. Lineup lanes will not be open for loading/thru traffic. Float captains must submit entry form, driver’s license and proof of insurance.

This year’s Caerus Mardi Gras Parade, Community Leadership Ambassador is John W. Pace.

“John has been championing causes and fundraising since grade school, but has honed his natural skills in the workplace and community to everyone’s benefit,” explained Saucier. “He retired from the state of Mississippi in 2013, and moved south to Hattiesburg to be near his daughter Brianna, then a student at JCJC, now at USM.”

While working for the state, Pace started a continuous series of fundraising activities for various causes that continues to this day, 31 consecutive years.

His first event in this series, March 2, 1989, was an American Cancer Society Jail-N-Bail.

He gives that single event credit for changing his life and putting him on the path of volunteerism and service to others.

In the early 1990s, he was named Lauderdale County’s Outstanding Young Man and the Meridian Moose Lodge’s International Rookie of the Year.

As founder of the state’s largest Southern Gospel Promotions company, he spent 15 years promoting concerts to benefit various charities, including the Baptist Children’s Village and Sunnybrook Children’s Home.

From 2000-2011, he volunteered with the Mississippi Association for Healthcare Quality, working alongside future Mississippi First Lady Deborah Bryant.

Under his leadership, MsAHQ rocketed from the bottom of the Nation to the top, earning back to back Silver Awards for State Associations.

After a dying friend challenged him to get involved more with cancer causes, he lent his talents as an artist to paint various canvases which were donated and auctioned by Relay for Life and Susan G Komen for the Cure. Once he retired from state service, his volunteer work increased over two years where he co-founded the annual MHP Batson Toy Drive and sent dozens of cases of personal items to forward operating bases in Afghanistan.

These works lead directly his receiving Mississippi’s highest honor for volunteerism, the Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence (GIVE) Award in 2014, presented to him by Governor Phil and First Lady Deborah Bryant.

Approaching 30 consecutive years of volunteer fundraising, John was presented with the President’s Call to Service Lifetime Achievement Award (Point of Light) by President Obama in 2016.

In 2018, he became a double recipient of this prestigious award when President Trump recognized his work specific to the armed forces, veterans, and their families.

Since coming to the Pine Belt in 2014, John has held more than 100 fundraising events across south Mississippi.