MILTON — The city of Milton will once again be able to locally Mardi Gras with a parade on Feb. 16 thanks to the Emerald Coast Krewe of Airship Pirates.

The krewe — the term for a social club that sponsors Mardi Gras events and takes part in the parades — was founded in October of 2017 with only 16 members and has grown to 44. According to www.kreweofairshippirates.com/, the krewe's desire is to have a, "less rigid and dramatic parade and krewe society."

The krewe is also known, according to Fitzgerald, as the first steampunk pirate krewe on the Emerald Coast. Steampunk refers to a genre in art and literature featuring Victorian styles and Industrial-era technology. Interpretations vary, but note two of the Krewe of Airship Pirates' floats feature a pair of gears and several propellers, iconic steampunk items.

Krewe president, Patrick Fitzgerald, and owner-operator of LAS Fencing and Event Rentals LLC, said the krewe decided to take on the parade because he felt it was important for the city. Milton didn't have one last year.

"I felt like it was something we needed to do," he said. "People had been coming up to me and telling me we should do it."

Fitzgerald said he went to the city for approval and received full support. Main Street Milton, which used to put on the parade, will work with the krewe, he said.

"Milton has never seen what we are bringing," he said. "We will be having krewes from Pensacola coming to the parade."

Fitzgerald said the parade will follow the same route as the Milton Christmas parade. There will be celebrity judges for the parade, he said, at the Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce including WEAR's Alan Strum and Milton Councilwoman Heather Hathaway. 

"Next year we hope to change the route to turn on Berryhill and go down Willing Street and will have an after-parade party," Fitzgerald said. "Our hope is that we can put Milton on the map."

According to Fitzgerald, there will be a raffle during the parade with 20 percent of the proceeds, as well as 20 percent of the parade entry fees, going to the Ronald McDonald House, the main charity the krewe supports.

Mardi Gras festivities will kickoff with a pre-parade party at the Guy Thompson Community Center from 2 -5:30 p.m. Lineup for the floats will begin at 2 p.m. at the community center. The parade will start at 6 p.m.

Applications for participating in the parade are available at www.kreweofairshippirates.com or at the chamber of commerce office, 5247 Stewart Street.