Down in New Orleans

As I look out my window, I am reminded why I hate January so much. I know, it’s a new beginning, a fresh start to the year, full of possibilities and all that garbage.

But it’s depressing.

Everything outside my window is gray or brown. Okay, a little bit of yellowy beige. But nothing remotely pretty. No green shrubs. No pretty flowers. No pristine lawn. Just death.

And there’s nothing much to enjoy in January. If you’re in the Northern part of the country – just snow and snow shovel. If you’re in the South, well, what I just described. Too cool for getting outside to enjoy the grayness, too windy to enjoy the frizz-free hair the one benefit winter gives – no humidity.

Glad you read the blog today, aren’t you? I just made your day so cheerful 🙂

But February is coming…In Louisiana that means Mardi Gras. I seriousy feel bad for the rest of the country. They’re still shoveling that blasted snow and we’re pigging out on king cake and fighting the person next to us for a pair of cheap beads. Nothing better than a Mardi Gras parade.

For those of you who haven’t experienced it, there’s really no way to describe it. Now, living in North Louisiana, I hadn’t really experienced it until I moved to New Orleans. But now, you can find parades all over the state, including my hometown of Shreveport where it has grown by leaps and bounds.

Mardi Gras means “party time” in Louisiana. It’s got it’s own music, food, traditions. I can still remember how flabbergasted I was at my first Mardi Gras parade. It was Metairie’s Caesar parade. Float after float rolled by with beads flying left and right. Sometimes lacy thongs floated in the air with the occasional stuffed animal. The biggest beads are the prize. Sometimes the krewe might demand a kiss (usually on the cheek, but I wouldn’t trust those drunk guys) and sometimes they want to see a little more. But only tourists do that.

The costumes and floats are masterpieces. In that particular parade, the headresses are lit in neon. They flash and pulse the excitement of the crowds. Local high school bands and dancelines fill in between the floats and perform periodically. As a high school cheerleader sponsor, I’ve walked my fair share of parades, usually three during the season. The routes are usually slightly over five miles.

Lining the streets are ladders for as far as the eye can see. You’re wondering why, aren’t you? For the kids, of course. You take a wooden ladder and nail an old fashioned carpenter’s box to the top allowing the handle to become the rail that keeps the child inside the seat (the bottom of the box). Voila! You climb onto the back, put the child into the seat, and there’s no chance of the kid being trampled. He or she WILL get nailed in the head by beads, dubloons, and cups, but they won’t end up wandering out onto the parade route.

On any given Saturday during the season (which runs until Ash Wednesday) there are five parades going on in the New Orleans area. Lots of throws, lots of people, lots of liquor stores making lots of money. But its a way of life for Louisianians.

So, obviously I love Mardi Gras. And any of you are welcome to come to Shreveport and catch a parade with me. Trust me. It’s fun. Any of you ever been to Mardi Gras?

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9 Responses

  1. such a blast! I’ve been once to one in Monroe. I think I was in the 10-14year old range, so a good age to be fascinated by it all.

    There is no way I’d take my toddler to that. he doesn’t do well in crowds and I know I’d never get him to sit in one of those chairs up in the air. by himself. for any extended period beyond a minute.

  2. this thing is not keeping me logged-in like it used to!

  3. Oh, no. He’s a perfect age for it. Any age for that matter. We usually tailgate beforehand – eat, hangout, and my kids like to play hopscotch out on the parade route. In Shreveport, they don’t do the ladders. Most daddies hoist their kids onto their shoulders.

    And it’s such a feast for the eyes and senses. My kids have always loved it.

    Maybe next year you can bring B down. He’d be a good age to enjoy it.

  4. I’ve only been to New Orlean’s once and I was in 9th grade or so. It was a lot of fun. There is a lot of old history there that I would love to come back and see.

    My friends used to go to Mardi Gras every year. They would go down before the big parades start and go to some of the smaller ones – off the beaten path meant more for the families of LA.

    Have fun and save us some beads.

  5. I’ve been to New Orleans’s several times, but never during Mardi Gras, though I loved the city. Okay, and the food.

    The last time I went was before Katrina. I sang in the old dome and at the Blue Fountain. Loved going to the Riverwalk and of course seeing the Voodoo Man ( I wonder if he’s still there after the hurricane). Although it wasn’t Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street is/was still very much alive. 🙂

  6. I’ve never been, but I do have a sister-in-law from Louisiana so I get to at least hear about all the great parties and parades. 🙂 Maybe someday when all the kids are grown, we’ll get to check it out. School and extra curricular activities puts a damper on making any plans during this time for us.

  7. New Orleans is a great place to visit any time of year except late summer – too brutally hot. But mardi GRAS is just such a unique experience. I recommend everyone go at least once. It’s uniquely Louisiana. And it is an event for all ages. ( though I would recommend not taking children to some areas like the Quarter) but you can experience it in other areas like Shreveport, Monroe, or lake Charles.

  8. I wish I could be there. I’ve never been to New Orleans, so no Mardi Gras for me. I would visit just for the food. I’m dying for some beignets at Cafe du Monde.

  9. Oh, Jane – Beignets are so worth it! Hope you can make it to NO at some point. It really is a neat city.

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