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What If They Had Mardi Gras and Nobody Came?

New Orleans Mardi Gras. Three revelers painted...

Image via Wikipedia

Recently I was accepted into a Mardi Gras Krewe for the first time in my life. I’m not gonna say which one because I think I’m supposed to keep that private. Never thought I’d ever want to be in one but several of my family members are in it so I thought it would be fun to join them.

So I join the ranks of many a New Orleanian young and old who become part of Carnival history by being part of something that keeps this whole thing going. Without the Krewes there would be no Mardi Gras, at least as we currently know it to be. There would be no parades. Or wouldn’t there be?

Years ago the members of New Orleans Police Department decided that they wanted more money and more benefits. The city though was not forthcoming in their pleas for better pay and resisted.

It was coming pretty close up on the Carnival parade season and the cops decided that the best way to get results was to threaten the very existence of Mardi Gras which was all around the historical parades such as Rex, Zulu and Comus. These parades in a sense, were what made Mardi Gras. How could you have a Mardi Gras without these parades?!

It was a brilliant move on the cops part to hold Mardi Gras hostage to get their demands met, that is, it would have been brilliant anywhere else but here it was strictly un-neworleanian-like.

What would happen to Mardi Gras? folks fretted. There’ll be chaos in the streets! Eventually, all the krewe‘s had to cancel their parades, but the mayor, Dutch Morial, stuck to his guns. He refused to let the city be held hostage by the police department. That was much to his credit.

Mardi Gras came. People were out on the streets just as always dressed in costume, drinks in hand, music blaring, dancing and carousing continued. People created their own spontaneous parades. It was one of the best Mardi Gras ever.

You see what the cops hadn’t realized is that Mardi Gras existed before there were parades. Parades are nice but they are only part of what makes up the celebration. Mardi Gras exists in the spirit of the people, in their hearts and minds and they bring it to the streets and share it with others.

In the end the policeman’s strike fell apart. They had no leverage. In trying to hold the city hostage they ended up with nothing.

All that being said we are all very grateful for the wonderful job they do during the carnival season. Their presence is always reassuring and they conduct themselves always in a professional and friendly way.

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Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans History, New Orleans Life.

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2 Responses

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  1. Derek says

    We did not think anyone would come after Katrina. After Katrina we thought we would loose our Mardi Gras Business,, and there would be no one left or too much kaos to care about a Mardi Gras celebration. We were really suprised that the following Mardi Gras season was stronger than ever! Our customers needed something to put the past behind them and Mardi Gras was it!

  2. Richard Bienvenu says

    Yes, you are right. I think Mardi Gras is probably one of the city’s most cohesive forces. One of the few things I think Nagin did right was to encourage the celebration of Carnival for it certainly provided that much needed wind-in-our-sails to get on with the business of recovery.

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