Kay Valve of the Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council marks the route of Sunday’s underwater Easter parade on Jawfish Reef Thursday. Parade organizers hope staging the event underwater will reduce sectarian violence that has marred recent Easter parades. (photo courtesy of Rosie Blenny/BIEC)
The Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council announced Wednesday the Caribbean island’s annual Easter parade will take place underwater after sectarian violence marred last year’s parade along the island’s resort strip.
“Staging the parade underwater’s a Hail Mary, but it was that or cancel it completely,” BIEC chair, the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “There’ll be fewer people underwater, and it makes crowd control a whole lot easier.
“Last year’s fights between the Christians in the parade and the yahoos hijacking it for Ostara’s spring fertility festival blind sided us,” Ephesians said. “It started with insults, then thrown beer bottles, then an all-out melee the length of the parade route. We had to do something to preserve the event.”
Island authorities confirmed last year’s parade brawl set new records for damage.
“Vehicles were burned. Businesses were vandalized. The clinic was chock-a-block with injured participants from both sides,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “If Jerrod and his council hadn’t come up with this alternative, the parade was history.”
Organizers noted security measures will be in place for this year’s parade.
“We’ve tailored the event to maintain a high degree of safety while being as inclusive as possible,” BIEC sergeant-at-arms Kay Valve said. “Safety divers will keep the various factions separated and peaceful. And prevent drownings.
“Participants can be Christian, pagan or anything else,” Valve said. “They don’t even have to be religious. We do ask that everyone be sober, though. And anyone starting trouble will be immediately power-inflatored to the surface, regardless of religious affiliation.
Parade participants praised the changes.
“It will be lovely seeing everyone kitted out in their best wetsuits, BCs and masks,” Blacktip Island Junior League president Marcia Seagroves said. “And we’ve all gussied our neoprene hoods into the most wonderful bonnets. It’s different, certainly, but promises to have its own sort of dignity. Nevertheless, all League members will wear dive knives, just in case.”
Not all locals were pleased with the parade’s new format.
“It’s a mockery, celebrating Holy Week with an underwater game of follow-the-leader,” Father Poppy Bottoms of Our Lady Of Blacktip Cathedral said. “So’s Jerrod organizing it – he’s the one who set the spark to the tinder last year by running through the parade wearing nothing but a white bathrobe and yelling he was the archangel Gabriel.”
BIEC officials remained upbeat.
“We’ve encouraged underwater spectators to bring video cameras so we can stream the parade live to the BIEC website for non-divers,” Valve said. “There will also be prizes for best bonnet and most inappropriate wetsuit. And afterwards we’ll have a sea turtle egg hunt for the kiddos.”