Mande Milkshakers Shake Up Mardi Gras
Even though they’ve only been shakin’ since 2017, the Mande Milkshakers have become an instant classic and staple of Mardi Gras on both shores. But the Northshore’s first marching group is about so much more than parading.
Milkshakers’ founder and Captain, Tina Rhinehart, says the original marching group evolved quickly into a women’s organization where members benefit from camaraderie and social events while giving back through community and fundraising events. “For years I watched other marching groups and wanted to create that here for myself, friends and family. On a whim in early 2017, some friends and I put together a dance, and it just resonated with us. I contacted Mardi Gras organizations thinking we’d be ready for 2018, but Dionysus wanted us immediately. In just a month, we chose our ‘50s-inspired housewife theme, ordered costumes, and our new group hit the lakefront to practice. From there it took on a life of its own.”
After three months, the group’s red and white polka dotted diner uniforms became synonymous with fun and frivolity as their Facebook following grew to over 3000. Rhinehart recognized early-on that the Milkshakers were meant for more and worked with her mother-in-law to create a non-profit with the pillars of fun, fitness, friendship, and philanthropy. “We wanted girl time, to get off the couch and dance again, and to use our notoriety to give back. We choose a different charity every two years and direct most of our resources to them. This year it’s Safe Harbor. We still contribute to past partners but find value in changing our focus to bring attention to multiple Northshore causes.”
The Milkshakers has grown to 65 women, but joining the family takes quite a commitment. Says Rhinehart, “There was fear of losing the family feel with growth. We didn’t want to be exclusive but did want the right fit for new members.”
Candidates commit to an eight-week practice schedule culminating in a final live audition. They also attend events to understand the time commitment and members’ roles. Says Rhinehart enthusiastically, “You have to put yourself out there – not only to spectators, but also to other members of the group. How we interact with each other is important.”
The Milkshakers’ January 11 King’s Day Parade along the Mandeville Lakefront kicks off 2020. A busy parade season is followed by event appearances including the Mandeville Family Reunion and Mande Independence Day, and the year rounds out with fundraisers such as their Sock Hop, Shoe Drive, and Polka Dots and Pearls Ball and Charity Auction.
One can hear the emotion in Rhinehart’s voice as she describes what the Mande Milkshakers means to members. “So many girls thank me for getting them excited and out of a rut. It gives them a whole new outlook because it’s fun and we’re doing something good for the community at the same time.”