It’s probably New York City’s only Republican-friendly parade. Breezy Point’s Mardi Gras celebration, held during the last weekend before summer unofficially ends, is a family-friendly burlesque, an amalgam of Labor Day, Halloween and the Fourth of July, filtered through the sensibility of the city’s right-leaning tabloids. “It’s like the Halloween parade” in the West Village, one visitor tells me—but instead of political lampoonery from the left (and bare breasts), it’s like a best of the New York Post headlines.
Aside from the cute and benign—an Elvis impersonator, kids dressed as characters from Up and Willy Wonka—marchers mock the Octomom and Michael Jackson’s doctor (a bag of prescription bottles hang from his neck, handcuffs dangle from his wrist). One family wears oversized mock-ups of Green Cards for phony immigrants like “Pierre Beret” and for others from Russia, China and Mexico that are in more questionable taste. One man tows a crudely constructed “Love Shack,” sporting a list of politicians mired in sex and corruption scandals—all conspicuously Democrats, even though the G.O.P. seems to lead the league in those infractions. Jim McGreevey, according to the handscrawl on the model house’s roof, likes to make deals in the “backroom.”
Kids in camos shoot toy machine guns, in keeping with the neighborhood’s military sympathies. Many residents are obviously veterans. One house along the parade route is slathered in USMC insignia and jingoistic banners: “Peace through strength.” A towel hanging to dry in one yard, printed with the American flag, reminds passersby that “Freedom isn’t free.” Down the road, one woman adorns her home using Halloween decorations, including a cardboard tombstone to mock (prematurely) the failure of President Obama’s healthcare overhaul.
Despite the deeply conservative sensibility, the 40th anniversary of Woodstock looms large over the parade, too. One magic-markered piece of oak tag reads, “Legalize It,” printed across a hand-drawn-and-colored pot leaf. But the hippie sympathy seems more rooted in Q104 nostalgia, a yearning for youth rather than an embrace of hallucinogen-fueled mud wrestling. I suddenly realize why I feel so out of place; it isn’t the antithetical political sympathies (I’m from Bay Ridge)—it’s that I’m the only childless twentysomething in a party full of middle-aged parents, grandparents and kids of all ages.