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?
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.
Go on to Part Two —>>>
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