Le Krewe d’Etat has only been around for about 15 years but it has turned into one of the most popular parades of the entire New Orleans Mardi Gras season. Instead of a king like most parades, there is a dictator and his identity is kept secret. In fact, most of the what goes on with this krewe is kept secret. That’s just the way they like to roll, ha ha, pun intended.
The Dancin’ Darlins, Premiere New Orleans Mardi Gras Troupe, Dance Gangham Style – Video
This krewe is actually a throwback to the early days of carnival in New Orleans where it was common to lampoon politicians, celebrities and the like. And each year Krewe d’Etat does not disappoint. This time in 2013 the theme was “The Dictator’s Reading Room” and used a bookish theme to make fun of those who’d made news over the past year. No race, color, political persuasion or religion is spared. All is fair game to be skewered by these folk.
[Just by way of note for the uninformed the term “krewe” is a word used for a carnival organization.]
Several years ago the krewe debuted the first New Orleans Mardi Gras dancing men’s group and each year they don different costumes to “honor” someone who’s made the news. This year they dressed as old time football players and danced Gangham style to revamped lyrics of the popular Youtube video calling it Tackle Bounty Style in honor of Roger Goodell who gutted the New Orleans Saints in 2012. This all had to do with some bogus and completely unproven bounty scandal veritably destroying the team’s chances for making an attempt for the Super Bowl held in the team’s own city.
As you can see in this video, the Dictator’s Dancin’ Darlins, as the group is called, does it’s all in an attempt to honor the Saints and in some small way to rectify this scandal by creating a scandal of their own on the streets of the Crescent City.
We have guys in our group of are all ages, shapes and sizes. Some of the big guys, I just don’t know how they do it, dancing for five miles for three and a half hours. Perhaps they have that light-on-the-feet Jackie Gleason gene. I’m amazed at their stamina.
What’s It Like Being in a Mardi Gras Parade – Part Three
New Orleans Mardi Gras. Night parade on Canal Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And tonight there were no breakdowns of any floats in the parade ahead of us so we moved along at a steady clip.
Sometimes even our dancing slowed the parade so we would occasionally find ourselves sprinting ahead to catch up with the float in front of us. Pity the poor people who missed the chance to see us dancing by.
We move passed Gallier Hall and to the intersection of Poydras where the street is wide and parade gawkers are confined behind barricades. Here we have a lot of space to stretch out and as we move on down toward Canal Street.
But first we must put on a really great show for the Pickwick Club there at the corner of St. Charles and Canal where members and family crowd the balcony overlooking the street.
The spectators on the ground now all behind barricades seem so far away, no one can reach out to touch us but the cheering goes on and we feel like we a part of the privileged few, the one per-centers, who get to be in a parade.
Ah yes, the adoring fans cheer and wave as we make it onto Canal Street marking the near end of our three and a half hour, ordeal…er… dance. Because the parade is moving so fast we find ourselves sprinting again to catch up with the float in front of us.
We manage to squeeze out one more display of excellent dancing ability, to get the last little bit of the adoration that’s been showered on us over the last five miles. My toes are aching and finally we come to the end of the line and we peel off into the hotel to rest, change into street clothes and see what damage we may have been done to our dogs.
Because the parade was moving at a steady clip the whole night I didn’t have the time nor the inclination to go back to the trailer to get a beer which may account for the fact that when the parade was over I really didn’t feel tired or worn out. So I found it funny when as we were going up the escalator the youngest fellow in our group whom I have about 30 years on said he was exhausted. Not only did I not feel exhausted I actually felt great. But my poor toes… ouch.
I got to the changing room that was now busy with dancers shedding themselves of their dancing paraphenalia, talking and laughing, trading stories about their experiences in the parade. I sat and took off my shoes afraid of what I might see but luckily all my toenails looked fine with just some redness of the skin next to the big nails.
I changed and went over the table and poured me a Coke. I never drink Coke or any soft drinks for that matter but heck that icy Coke was so refreshing I went back several times and had a couple more glasses.
It was now about 10:30. My girlfriend picked me and my brother up. As we were pulling away down Canal Street I got a cramp in my right leg and we had to stop so I could get out of the car and shake it off. And as we moved through the traffic my feet began to ache… a lot… throbbing really.
The next morning when I got up my feet felt fine but my back was aching, let me tell you. By the next day my back was fine and all that was left of my dancing the night away on the streets of New Orleans were great memories.
The dancing group coordinators usually give out awards for best dancers which I have been nominated for each year over the last four years I’ve been dancing. I’ve won twice. I don’t know if I’ll get any awards this year but I felt like this was my best dance because I had good energy the whole way and to me that’s really all that matters. I think this year was my best year dancing in a Mardi Gras parade. Can’t wait to do it again.
Out of the crowd I see a cousin and I hand him one of the tokens and we have only a few seconds to talk. He asks me which float my brother is on. I know he’s behind us and I tell him so as the parade moves on.
What’s It Like Being in a New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade? – Part Two
Catching beads at Gallier Hall – New Orleans Mardi Gras
Now it’s on to Superior Grill where the college student crowd seems to be the most thick. More cheering and reaching out, the sound deafening, more happy faces, more smiling, laughing, applauding.
Now the next place to look out for is where my family and their friends are, a spot in front of a building they’ve rented for carnival season for decades. We break into a dance right before we get there and when we pass the spot I’m able to pick out two nephews one of which I break through the crowd and hand a token to.
As I jump back into line I see my sister-in-law and my girlfriend right next to me both grinning ear to ear. And the parade moves on.
It’s amazing really that you only have a few moments at each spot to really see anyone. You are moving so fast you’re able to just catch glimpses if at all.
By the time we get to Jackson Avenue the crowds have thinned out a little bit but they are still thick. My big toes are beginning to hurt from one of the dance steps that during rehearsal we had practiced stationary but have to change it to a moving forward step which is making it feel like big blisters are forming. I wonder what the heck my feet will look like when I take off my shoes at the end.
The parade is moving quicker than we thought. And we are all thankful that we have not had long stops as we’ve had in prior years. We pass The Avenue Pub and out of the crowd I see an old friend and we shake hands quickly in between my dance steps.
We head into Lee Circle and we’ve been dancing for about three hours now. Some of us are beat and we know that we are close to the reviewing stand at Gallier Hall so it’s time to gather all the energy and strength and crisp dance steps we can muster. I’m feeling good and no worse for wear except for the pains in my big toes.
I’m hoping that it isn’t my toenails because the first year of my dancing with this group when I took off my shoes at the end the nail on my right big toe was black, fell off a few days later and took months for it to get back to normal.
We round Lee Circle and turn right and back onto St. Charles Avenue, the crowd mostly in stands above us on either side cheering as we break into our dance. I see people waving and laughing reaching out trying to touch us.
Finally, we make it to the reviewing stand in front of Gallier Hall where politicians, dignitaries and celebrities are gathered. We break into our now familiar dance with everyone in our group doing their best to be at the top of their game.
I usually like to get in the very front of the group on the right hand side. I know this is where the TV cameras will be and since I am one of the better dancers I help to inspire some of those behind me who may be a little lacking in the dancing ability department. Hey, I’m a pretty good dancer and a showoff, what can I say.
I’ve had the privilege over the last few years to be in a men’s dancing group for one particular New Orleans Mardi Gras parade that occurs on the weekend before Mardi Gras. No it is not the 610 Stompers, our rival group. In fact since those in the krewe like to keep things secret I am not going to reveal which parade I’m in. Anyway, it does not matter, other than that it has become one of the most popular parades of all carnival season and usually draws huge crowds.
What’s It Like Being in a New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade?
Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans: Krewe of Kosmic Debris revelers on Frenchmen Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Each year we dress as something different, something topical usually either to make fun of someone in the news, mainly local news, or in some strange way to honor them.
One year we wore red dresses in honor of a deceased sportscaster who said if the Saints ever won the Super Bowl he’d wear a red dress.
Well, he passed away before that happened so in honor of his promise we wore red dresses, sheer red dresses.
And on the night of the parade it was freezing, literally. So many of us wore long johns under the dress, but some went with hardly anything under it at all. Don’t know how they did it. Some were even sweating when the parade was over.
We rehearse once a week a few weeks before the parade date. We practice our moves and dance steps in between feasting on pizza and beer. We give our measurements for the costumes and we are sworn to secrecy about who we are portraying even to the rest of the krewe and friends and family until the float viewing day party a week before the parade where we put on a dress rehearsal, the main act of the float viewing festivities.
The day of the parade there’s a lunch for the entire krewe at one of the hotels downtown and by 5 in the afternoon all the dancers and float riders, some of them merry, pile onto buses to take the back route along the river docks to the parade line up. There we do a quick rehearsal of our dance steps to get some of the out of town members of our group who come in just for the parade up to speed with the moves.
We have a while to wait till the parade starts up so there’s time for a beer or two, some tasty fried chicken and a po-boy sandwich. This year, 2013, the evening air is perfect, just a trifle on the cool side.
It’s 6:30 and the floats begin to pull out, flambeaus moving with them and we line up behind our given float behind us a trailer with a porta potty and refreshments with speakers blaring the music that we dance to. It takes a while to get warmed up, only a few minutes really and away we go. The cheering starts immediately from the crowd. When we launch into a dance of a popular song a roar goes up.
Napoleon Avenue is packed with people cheering and clapping many reaching their hands out wanting you to slap their hands as you walk by. Turning the corner onto St. Charles Avenue there is a throng at Fat Harry’s and the crowd begins to get thicker.
Here at these turns folks are behind barricades, not really sure why since most of the parade route has no barricades whatsoever. Between Fat Harry’s and Superior Grill is where it gets the most exciting and you really feel like a rock star. Here is where most of the college kids hang out and the crowds are so thick they pour into the streets.
When we launch into one of our dances the sound from the crowd is so loud that you can barely hear the music, folks are cheering and reaching out to you, everyone has a big smile on their face and their eyes are lit up, girls, guys, old folks, little kids all look so incredibly happy and seem like they are having such fun watching our dance group do our well-rehearsed synchronized dancing.
Sometimes the sound from the spectators is so loud it hurts the ears, I can hear a crackling in my ear drums. From out of nowhere bounds the daughter of a friend of mine who comes up to me big smiles and puts her arm around me. I give her one of the five tokens I’m giving out to only people I know. The parade stops momentarily and I pose for a photo with her and give her a kiss on the cheek and say hi to her friend. The parade starts up again and away we go.
Sometimes it’s fascinating to read a foreigner’s take on the city of New Orleans, its food and its culture. Mary Hart of the Telegraph in London gives an account of her recent trip to the Crescent City and its environs and her “search” for her son who’s a student at Tulane University.
A British Reporter’s New Orleans Food Tour
A Lazy Afternoon in French Quarter – New Orleans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There a few inaccuracies in her article, like Brad Pitt buying land in the French Quarter to build homes for people who lost theirs during after Katrina.
I had to laugh at that.
In reality these homes were built in the flooded Lower Ninth Ward and as far as I know Pitt didn’t buy the land on which the homes currently sit.
And, there is no vacant land to build anything on in the Quarter.
Also, she calls Morgan City “Morgan” which sounds strange to our ears.
Besides all that she really does a great job at capturing the essence of the city and would be a perfect guide for anyone coming here who wants to do their own food tour.
The Café du Monde is the city’s meeting point. It is right on the banks of the Mississippi, behind a massive flood wall, but this is one of the few places where you can get up on to the river walk and watch the oil tankers gliding past at eye level. Across the road is Jackson Square and St Patrick’s Cathedral; further down the road is Central Grocery, home of the original muffuleta – a gigantic sandwich large enough to feed a family of four for a day, containing layers of ham, salami, cheese, mortadella, salad and olives in Italian bread. You can sit in the back of the grocery to eat your sandwich, or, if you’re feeling strong, carry it away, ‘cut and wrapped to travel’.
Beyond Central Grocery is the French Market, seething with the kind of chic goth-punk characters who throng the streets of New Orleans. There are 250,000 people in New Orleans who speak French, and the food, the architecture and the shops all reflect this; the music that assaults you from every street corner, however, is entirely Cajun. It is exhilarating, noisy, rhythmic and thoroughly enlivening. Indeed, it is impossible while wandering these streets to feel anything but exhilarated. Years fall away. Everyone looks – and you feel – like a student here.
I just want to correct a few things she says here. I would be surprised if 250,000 people in New Orleans spoke French. Would that it were true. Probably the correct answer is that that number in all of Louisiana speak some form of French.
Also, I’ve gotta say I’ve never heard Cajun music played on the streets in the French Quarter. However, if she is speaking of canned music coming out of some of the souvenir shops, then that’s for the most part’s correct. It’s loud, really too loud. And yes, it does assault you, but I don’t think in a good way.
I do like her final sentence:
The next day we had to fly home, leaving behind an enchanted city – a place, like Venice with added voodoo, that sometimes seems to the outside world to be dancing crazily on the brink of destruction.
Yeah, she kinda nails it. New Orleans is alla dat.
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