Coast girl celebrating Sweet 16 in true Mardi Gras style with birthday-themed parade float

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Turning 16 is a big moment for a girl, but turning 16 on Fat Tuesday is even more special. For one South Mississippi teen, her love for Mardi Gras is rolling into her birthday celebrations.

Marina Hays and her family have always been big into the Coast Mardi Gras scene, spending each year on a parade float with friends. This year, however, is a little different.

With Marina’s birthday falling on Fat Tuesday, her parents decided to go all out and give her a float that was just for her.

Rocquel and Tommy Hays said they always knew they would go all out for their daughter’s Sweet 16 birthday.

“Years ago, we realized that Marina’s birthday was going to fall on Mardi Gras day, so we just tried to do something memorable for her, something a little different,” said Marina’s dad Tommy. “Sweet 16 is supposed to be a big party for young girls, so we want to make something that she will always remember.”

“Our family loves Mardi Gras,” said Marina’s mom Rocquel. “We’ve always done every Mardi Gras for years. We’re in the group Athena, Gulf Coast Carnival... just all kinds of fun stuff. So when we figured out it was the same day, we thought it was perfect to get all of this wrapped up into one thing.”

The family received support from local business owners who donated souvenirs for the kids to throw.

“A couple of Gulf Coast businesses have gotten involved - DR Horton, Salad Station, State Farm. They have all donated stuff for the kids to throw,” Tommy said.

The birthday girl will get to ride on the float with 26 of her friends. Her mom said family members will also be in the crowd cheering her on.

“We have a bunch of friends and family that are going to be on the streets looking for her too, and that is their way of celebrating with her for her birthday,” Rocquel said.

Marina’s float is number 51 at the Gulf Carnival Association parade. The parade rolls in downtown Biloxi beginning at 1pm Tuesday. To see the parade route, click here.

Want more WLOX news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Copyright 2022 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Leslie Rojas

Leslie Rojas

Leslie Rojas comes to WLOX from the Los Angeles area where she earned her degree in Journalism from California State University Long Beach.