Laissez les bons temps roulez - let the good times roll!!
This famous Louisiana motto is never more true than during Carnival season in New Orleans, and it has officially started!
Although some people
say Carnival and Mardi Gras interchangeably, they are actually different
Carnival is a time to eat, drink and be merry before the
rigorous fasting and sacrifice during Lent, which starts on Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday", which is
always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
Carnival is filled with parades, balls and other celebrations, and last Sunday we went to Slidell to see our (and their) first Parade!
We went early, not knowing how busy it would get, and
when they would close of the parade route, so we first had coffee (and
beignets) at cafe Beignet-au-lait.
Hey, never miss an opportunity to have some beignets!
Next door was cafe La Pines, 'as seen on TV', featured in 'Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!
We'd planned to get a po'-boy to go, to have for lunch while watching the parade, but as it turned out, they only serve breakfast on Sundays. Bummer!
We were the first to park the truck at a vacant parking lot, towards the end of the parade route, but were quickly surrounded by people who had the same idea. Everybody backed in, tailgate-party style ...
James had the brilliant idea to put our chairs on top of the truck, which turned out to be a very lucrative move!
Since we sat high above everyone else, we caught the eye of many of the float's 'throwers'!
I'd heard about people bringing ladders for their children to sit on and these people had definitely done so before!
The parade was supposed to start at 1 pm but since we were early and about halfway the route, it took until 3 pm before the first floats showed up. It was a long wait!
Besides that it was also very windy and chilly until about noon, when it finally warmed up a little when the sun came out.
Time enough to do some people watching!
When the road was finally closed off, people started to walk the streets and vendors came by selling anything from cotton candy to hats, beads and other souvenirs.
(Economic impact reports indicate that Mardi Gras generates over $1 billion in annual spending!)
Here's a little about the history of these parades; the first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans on Feb. 24, 1857 by
the Krewe of Comus. They began the tradition of presenting a parade with
floats and following it with a ball for the Krewe and their guests.
A Krewe, by the way, is a private organization or any other social club with
restrictive membership policies that puts on a parade (with at least 12 floats) and organizes a ball afterwards.
of these parade organizations
are completely funded by their members and it can cost up to hundreds
or even thousands of dollars to join and than another couple of hundreds
or thousands to buy your own 'throws', costumes and masks!
We were going to see two different parades that would follow each other along the same route; first the Krewe of Claude, followed by the Krewe of Poseidon.
Finally, the first Krewe arrrived! Yeah!
The Krewe of Claude turned out to be an all-black parade, and first up were the King and Queen ...
The floats they rode on were in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, chosen in 1892 by Rex, the King of Carnival.
Purple for justice, green for faith, and
gold for power.
In between the floats there were bands and dance groups ...
As suits Poseidon and his mermaids, their floats were aquatic themed.
This is their King and Queen:
And somewhere along the line, there were some Indians involved too ...?
Parades are a major part of celebrating Mardi Gras, and what's a
parade without some really great floats?
Ever since Krewes began
parading through New Orleans over 100 years ago, parade floats have
played a major role in Mardi Gras history.
|They start them young!|
Some floats are elaborate and beautiful, while others are funny and
satirical. Many Krewes have a theme to their parade each year, and so
floats are created to reflect those themes.
Thousands of dollars are
poured into making these floats, and they're not made overnight. Krewes
work on these creations year-round, often at secret "dens" around the
Krewes take their floats seriously!
|This was my favorite!|
Dozens of Krewe members will ride on each float and there are anywhere
from 15-40 full size floats in any given parade, tossing beads and home
made "throws" to cheering crowds chanting "Throw Me Something, Mister"
(or "Miss" as the case may be)!
So what are "throws?" Well, they are exactly what they
sound like -
items that Krewe members on floats throw to parade-goers as the floats
Throws often include doubloons, beads, cups, homemade
trinkets, cups (otherwise known as New Orleans dinnerware), long pearl
beads, stuffed animals and more!
The throwing of trinkets to the crowds was started in the early 1870s
by the Twelfth Night Revelers, and is a time-honored expectation for
young and old alike.
The richer the Krewe, the better the throws! The most 'wanted' throws are the custom made ones, with the Krewe's name on it, and the ones with the larger, or more special beads.
The 'collecters' items are worth fighting for and sometimes they do ...!
He's showing off some 'big ones' ...!
Your best bet to get the beads, is
to yell and wave to get the attention of, and than make eye contact
with, a thrower and since we were higher up than anybody else, we were
hard to miss!
At some of the rowdier parades, especially the ones in the French Quarter and the ones that roll at night, there are women who flash their boobs in order to get the best throws ....
But like I said, we were an easy 'target', and we were covered in beads, cups, balls, a spear, and even a sword!
No flashing necessary!
Float riders are
required to wear masks by law but I saw several throwers without one. Some are simple and some quite elaborate.
In the beginning, masks worn during Mardi Gras allowed wearers to
escape society and class constraints. When wearing a mask, carnival
goers were free to be whomever they wanted to be, and mingle with
whatever class they desired to mingle with.
On Fat Tuesday, everyone is free to wear
masks and it is also the day to wear a custom if you want to, the sillier and more colorful the better!
As you can see, the whole parade is one big, colorful party!
No parade without horses ... dressed up for the occasion .
And there are always some interesting looking cars, or in this case buggies from the Shriners ...
As with any respectable Parade, the end was formed by cars and trucks of the local police and fire-brigade.
Right behind them, the road was opened up again, and the crowds dissolved almost immediately.
As you can see, by that time the sun was setting and the temperature was plummeting again, so I guess everybody wanted to go home!
Part of the yearly fees that the Krewe members are paying, are used to hire cleaning crews to clean up the mess that was left behind on the streets!
When we got home and spread out our 'loot', it turned out we had 18 pounds in beads alone!
What to do with it? You can throw it away of course, or recycle (there are places around town that will take them, clean them and re-use or sell them for next year).
Some people make all kinds of 'artsy' things, like jewelry, lamps, or picture frames with the beads.
We decided to decorate the RV with them:
How fun is that, they glitter so pretty in the sun!!
This was my 'prize' one, a fish necklace from the Poseidon Krewe, I hang it inside:
Well, so far for our first parade(s). We had a ball! A little warmer would have been nice and next time (!) we're not going quite THAT early, but it was a lot of fun.
Also, no Mardi Gras without a piece of King Cake! We bought one at the local grocery store.
It came with some beads, of course, and a little baby 'on the side'.
Since some people have made a fuss about it being a choke hazard, some bakeries now give you the option to you hide it yourself somewhere in the cake, so they can't be sued.
Some people are such party-poopers!