As I threw beads over the wrought-iron balcony of Bourbon Bandstand in the French Quarter, I looked down at the crowds: strangers in elaborate costumes toasted drinks, laughed, and danced with each other as streets bands performed jazz. Everyone moved as if part of a well-rehearsed stage production performed countless times before.
Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the day before Lent, on which you live like it’s your last and indulge in the temptations of life.
Attending New Orleans’s Mardi Gras had been a dream of mine since college. Seeing pictures on Instagram and features on TV made me say, “I want to go to THAT! That seems fun!” I knew that since I am officially done with school I can now do all of those things in which, I could't find the time (or money) to do while I was in college. So my best friend, came on down from Lexington,TX and met me at my house and Houston we braved the 5 hour drive (we hate sitting in a car for longer than 2 hours). We arrived in Baton Rouge to Rashad's house then drove straight into the city that night.
Arriving in New Orleans the Sunday before Mardi Gras, Rashad, Shaniqua and I raced to catch the famous Bacchus parade. It’s one of the largest parades in the city and is known for its size, spectacular floats, and celebrity hosts. The floats are covered in elaborate designs and lights.
But Bacchus is just one of many parades.
Beginning in January, New Orleans is filled with daily parades that are an integral part of the Mardi Gras season. Like Bacchus, they feature gigantic and elaborate floats, costumes, dancers, and marching bands designed to create a carnival-like atmosphere. As they wind through the city, people on the floats throw beads, toys, and even coconuts at the crowds below.
Local residents line parade routes, creating mini picnic areas complete with lounge chairs, food, and tables. They take up whole sections of the street, arriving early in the morning to claim their spot. Many even come with ladders to get a better vantage point from which to catch whatever is thrown from the floats.
These picnic areas clutter the streets, as onlookers take prime real estate from other onlookers. Normally, cities usually try to allow as many people to view parades as possible and discourage those taking up so much space. But here in New Orleans, no one cared, and I found that that little difference was one of the most interesting parts of the festival.
Then, on the big day, New Orleans bursts into organized chaos. But enough of all that! Check out out the little video below. Its a microcosm of what we experienced, but definitely worth watching :)