It was typically quiet on my visit last week to Cocoa Village, a quaint district of antiques shops and eateries in Brevard County, but expect the place to be more rowdy next month — at least briefly.
On Feb. 9, the area tucked between State Road 520 and the Indian River will be celebrating Mardi Gras with a festive street party featuring a parade of glittery floats and a slate of musical acts that includes an authentic New Orleans brass ensemble, the Soul Rebels.
That band, which made a swing through Orlando in the spring, is the real deal. In addition to traditional Big Easy favorites, the group's repertoire boasts horn-powered interpretations of hits by Michael Jackson and Metallica. Tickets for the Cocoa Village Mardi Gras are $8 advance, $12 at the gate for adults, $5 advance and $8 at the gate for ages 12 and under. Visit cocoamardigras.com for details.
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604 Brevard Avenue, Cocoa, FL 32922, USA
To beat the rush, I decided to take a Cocoa Village day trip to sample the sunshine and window-shop. Many of these independent businesses have been fixtures along the main drag of Brevard Avenue for years, weathering the tough economy with a combination of perseverance and inventive thinking.
At the Magic Dove Magic Shop (604 Brevard Ave.), the proprietors have turned the place into the headquarters for a local chapter of the Society of Young Magicians. Membership has blossomed to several hundred aspiring illusionists, who refine their skills on the shop's small stage at weekly Friday night meetings.
A few blocks away, next to Riverfront Park, Carolyn Seiler & Friends Artists Co-op offers a forum for painters, sculptors and other creative types. The working gallery (carolynseiler.com) hosts frequent events, such as an open house to introduce its new artists from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.
Both businesses are regular stops on my visits, along with a vintage vinyl outlet, Caroline's House of Records, and Stone Street Antiques. For lunch, find a sidewalk table at Ossorio Bakery & Cafe (316 Brevard Ave.) to nosh on a flatbread sandwich or pizza.
It's worth venturing off the main drag to A to Z Liquidators (625 Florida Ave.), with collectibles goofy to the gorgeous.
Gorgeous also would describe the view of the Indian River from Riverfront Park. Soon, it'll be Mardi Gras central, but it's also worth celebrating on a quiet afternoon.