Flashbacks of Mardi Gras

One of my most favorite parts of our time in New Orleans was Mardi Gras. It is a magical time of year, a season, that goes from January 6 and Epiphany to Mardi Gras Day itself, Fat Tuesday. We had so much fun attending parades, bonding with new friends, as well as hosting and sharing the tradition with family and friends from out of town. Since we moved back to Chicago, we haven’t been able to head back for a visit, so I’ve tried to keep some of the traditions alive, such as hanging beads and learning how to make the super yummy King Cake.

I shared many of my Mardi Gras adventures on Facebook, during my first season in 2010 thru to 2014, but I also put together a few blog posts from 2012-14 related to Mardi Gras and it has been so fun to look back.

My first blog post about Mardi Gras was from Caring Bridge:

Written Feb 26, 2012 9:34am

Hello All!

I cannot believe that I am two-months post surgery! Wow.

I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to continue posting for a while longer.  I’m finding this CaringBridge blog–and the responses I’ve received–to be very therapeutic and helpful as I process the new world of breast cancer that I have been shoved into.

So, I’m a little tuckered out after a week of Mardi Gras vacation. Terry and I hosted 5 friends Saturday through Thursday in from Michigan and Chicago and it was a little crazy!!! Lots of parades, beads, music, people, good food and general partying. We went to St. Ann’s Parade, which is an unofficial parade through the Marigny and French Quarter, for the first time this year on Mardi Gras morning which was fun–but next year, if we go to St. Ann’s, we will have to dress up in costume and march in the parade! My favorite parades however, were before everyone arrived: the newest parade, Nyx, on Wednesday, February 15th and Muses, on Thursday, February 15th. Both Nyx and Muses are predominantly all-women krewes and the parades they organize have a very different flare than some of the more traditional parades. The throws (beads, trinkets, etc.) are better and you can get better spots on the parade routes.

The following year, 2013, was my first full year blogging at Searching for EMWA (and my most prolific with 79 posts) and Mardi Gras season was almost on steroids, especially with New Orleans hosting that year’s Super Bowl. From Super Bowl 2013:

Didn’t have a chance to write this post last week, but wanted to document the positives of being in New Orleans for this year’s Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday was a beautiful, warm, sunny day (which was definitely highlighted on tv!) and Terry and I biked down to the River–with me clicking photos most of the trip. Lots of city rehab projects were put into motion because of the Super Bowl and the city was looking good!

Here is my first attempt at a photo gallery with some of my photo highlights. Click on one of the photos and it should take you to a slide show of all the photos.

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Two of my besties also made it into town during Mardi Gras Season 2013–Kelly and her family towards the beginning and Carol at the end. Here is my post from Kelly’s visit (where I hadn’t figured out how to create a photo gallery), Mardi Gras/Super Bowl/Mardi Gras Weekend Two:

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Usually Mardi Gras consists of the weekend of Krewe du Vieux/Krewe Delusion and then two larger, consecutive weekends of Mardi Gras festivities ultimately leading up to Fat Tuesday/Ash Wednesday.  Visitors usually come into town the last weekend which leads up to Mardi Gras day itself; however, there is usually plenty going on the weekend before. This year, with New Orleans hosting the Super Bowl, the two big weekends have been divided in two–with the Super Bowl smack in the middle. To say that this been a crazy Mardi Gras season is an understatement. So much energy and preparation going into the Super Bowl! Add that on to the regular high-energy and preparation that usually goes into Mardi Gras season…Craziness!

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Two weeks ago, when frigid weather was moving into the Midwest, a couple of friends and family members made calls to see if they could still come down for a visit. My old Peace Corps’ friend, Kelly, and her family decided to take advantage of our standing offer to visit and drove from Ohio through snow, sleet, ice and rain last Friday to thoroughly take advantage of a weekend of 70 degree temperatures, sunshine and daily parades.

So cool to be able to reconnect with an old friend and see Mardi Gras Weekend Two through Kelly’s kids eyes!

The Budweiser Clydesdales were in the first parade on Saturday

The Budweiser Clydesdales were in the first parade on Saturday

Kelly and her youngest, Daniel

Kelly and her youngest, Daniel

Marching bands and cheerleaders as well as bands riding on floats replace the walking brass bands and jazz bands of Krewe du Vieux

Marching bands and cheerleaders as well as bands riding on floats replace the walking brass bands and jazz bands of Krewe du Vieux

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It's all about the beads!

It’s all about the beads!

Brothers Daniel and Andrew

Brothers Daniel and Andrew

High school cheerleaders/dancers aren't the only ones to perform in these Mardi Gras parades.

High school cheerleaders/dancers aren’t the only ones to perform in these Mardi Gras parades.

The reward for standing and watching the parades, besides seeing cool floats and some excellent performers, are the ‘throws’. From beads to stuffed animals, toys, and parade specific coins, gathering as many throws as one can is the goal. And kids are throw magnets…people riding in the floats love to give their loot to the kids. I wish we would have gotten a picture of all of the beads and other throws that Kelly and Family gathered over the course of two days worth (5 total) of parades!

This is just a sampling of the loot!

This is just a sampling of the loot!

A quick note. A number of the pictures of students performing in the parades were actually my students at the time. Crazy to think they are now in their early 20s!

Anyway, we wrapped up Mardi Gras season with my friend Carol coming in to town, which was a blast. Here is a big chunk of the post, Mardi Gras 2013–Final Week:

So, Word Press stats are rather interesting.  Yesterday, someone found my blog by searching ‘mardi gras 2013 boobs pics’ which linked the person to a prior Mardi Gras post of mine. Bet this person was in for a rather rude awakening to find a blog about a woman’s experience with breast cancer–who also lives in NOLA and loves Mardi Gras and who has never had to flash her boob(s) to get beads!!

Anyway, had a great Mardi Gras (long) weekend #2 this year! My friend Carol was in town staying with her family, the rain held off for the most part, the parades were fun, and we were able to catch lots of cool ‘throws’. Here is my second attempt at a photo gallery–and my first attempt at including video/audio footage. Make sure to click on one of the photos in the gallery if you want to view the pictures via slide show. You might want to play this first Zulu Parade clip and listen to it while looking at the photos. Just a suggestion. Also, there are more video clips after the photo library. Enjoy!

Zulu Parade

Mardi Gras Weekend #2 Photo Gallery

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The following year, in the midst of Zoey being sick and starting to think about moving back to Chicago, I only wrote one Mardi Gras post, but it was an inclusive one! The high points were marching in the Nyx Parade with a large Peace Corps group (amazing!) and my parents coming in to town (so fun!). Here is the post: Parades & King Cake & Beads & Weather, Oh My!

I can’t believe another Mardi Gras season has come and gone!!! This one was fantabulous!!!

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I’m a late comer to Mardi Gras and I had never attended a Mardi Gras parade prior to moving to NOLA.  I celebrated Antigua’s Carnival and j’ouvert morning as a Peace Corps Volunteer, but that 10-day festival celebrates England’s emancipation of slaves (August 1, 1834) rather than the Catholic calendar. I had gone to dinners on Fat Tuesday that included Mardi Gras/New Orleans themes complete with beans and rice, king cake and jambalaya, but again, that’s not Mardi Gras. I held many of the assumptions that many hold that Mardi Gras, New Orleans style, is all about women flashing their ta-tas for beads on Bourbon Street.

Was I in for a surprise then in 2010 when I was immersed in my first Mardi Gras season!! For one thing, locals, transplants and anyone who has been in New Orleans during Carnival season do not spend much time around Bourbon Street, if at all. The French Quarter, Frenchman’s Street and Royal Street are the locations for Krewe du Vieux two weekends before Mardi Gras, the Krewe of Barkus one weekend before, and St. Ann’s Parade on Mardi Gras Tuesday, but seriously, Bourbon Street is avoided. In the 1970s, floats got so big that unless it is a walking parade (which the 3 parades above all are), the parades can not go through the Quarter! Instead, most Orleans parades either extend along the Uptown, Canal/Mid-City or West Bank routes.

And yes, there are Mardi Gras celebrations and parades outside of New Orleans, from Lafayette to Biloxi to our own suburb, Metarie, but why go there when there is so much going on here?!?!?

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About the beads…sure, showing a little cleavage might get you a few extra beads, but so does being tall, attractive, a kid on a specially made parade ladder or watching a parade in an area that isn’t very ‘deep’ with people! Yes, grabbing ‘throws’–beads, cups, doubloons (coins specific to a krewe), toys and other kitsch is a big deal, it’s just not all about the ta-tas.

So this year, we missed Krewe du Vieux and Barkus. My first parade was Saturday, February 22 for the Krewe of Pygmalion’s parade, which I went to with a friend from work, but only snapped a few pics:

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My next parade is my favorite, the Krewe of Nyx parade. Nyx is an all-woman krewe that rolled for the first time in 2012. I considered joining, but got caught up in the whole BC thing and didn’t follow through, but have loved watching the parade and trying to catch their signature throw, a decorated purse.

The cool thing is that this year, the Louisiana Peace Corps Association was invited to march in the Nyx parade–and I did follow through on this one! We marched on Wednesday, February 26 in the evening. We followed the 28th float and there were 46 of us out representing Peace Corps–and it so happened that it was Peace Corps week, which added to the magic.

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The evening was chilly and threatening rain, but we represented with country of service flags and dress, hiking boots and Teva sandals, and PC stickers as our ‘throws’. Since we were at the back of the parade, we staged at a spot that allowed us to see the parade go by which meant that not only was I in my favorite parade, but I got to watch it as well! 🙂 It was truly a unique and wonderful experience to get a glimpse of Mardi Gras from the ‘other side’. The energy of the crowds was awesome and since we were marching, we didn’t have to wear masks which meant friends & hubby were able to find me and say ‘Hi!’. It was so cool to give out stickers and wave and cheer! Such positivity!!!

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I even had one guy from St. Kitts, who was marching with another group, come up to me and ask what the story was with the Antiguan flag I was carrying, before the parade started. We had a really nice conversation about the islands and Peace Corps. Special memories.

By the time we made it to the end of the route at Poydras and Tchoupitoulas  after midnight, the original 46 of us were down to 12. But I hung in there! 🙂

Needless to say, I was one tired girl at work on Thursday. Luckily we got out at 2 so everyone could get home before the streetcars stopped running for Thursday night’s parade, Krewe of Muses. Can we say nap time?

Terry and I went to the Muses parade Thursday evening, but stayed in Friday evening to regroup–and clean the house since my parents were on their way to experience their first Mardi Gras!

My parents arrived on Saturday in time to go to the late afternoon parade of Endymion. This is the only parade that rolls through mid-city anymore (the Mid-City parade actually rolls along the Uptown route these days) and it is a big deal. People were staking their area and setting up chairs and picnic shelters on Friday! My parents brought their bikes so we were able to bike over which definitely added to the adventure!

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On Sunday, March 2, we were back on the Uptown parade route at  the Krewe of Thoth parade. It was a very warm day and the parade route was crowded, so my high points were a crawfish boil we attended after the parade and riding our bikes home–while everyone else was stuck in traffic!

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We stayed in Sunday night instead of going to the Bacchus parade. Naps and Academy Awards won out, but we were back at it Monday night for a barbeque and Harry Connick, Jrs parade, Orpheus. The weather was at least 35 degrees colder than Sunday and windy and we didn’t see Harry this year (taping American Idol?), but the crowds were light, the barbeque was yummy, I caught beads thrown to me by our mayor, and we caught a lot of throws. It was a good night!

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So, another thing to keep in mind is that the majority of schools in Orleans are off the week of Lundi (Monday) and Mardi Gras days, most businesses are closed or have abbreviated hours on Mardi Gras day and many businesses get out early on Lundi Gras as well. This is a big deal for everyone. For those who don’t like parades and crowds, they generally leave town during this time (my surgeon heads out west skiing and many head to Orlando). However, instead of sleeping in on Mardi Gras, on Tuesday morning itself, everyone is up early for the last wave of parades.

And they start early! The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club parade starts at 8AM followed by the Rex, Elks and Crescent City parades rolling along the Uptown route. While in the Marigny/Bywater section of town, the Societe de Saint Anne is assembling to march into the Quarter. Parade goers often dress up in costume for Tuesday’s parades and especially for the St. Anne’s parade, it’s often hard to tell who is in the parade and who is watching.  Terry and I usually dress up, but opted not to this year.  With the weather being so nasty, I was happy to be in my foul weather gear and rain hat this year!!

We skipped Zulu and Rex, and headed to St. Anne’s parade and had a great time. Even with the rain, energy levels were high and people were loving life.

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And for those of you who have browsed through this whole post, here are a couple of video clips that capture the day pretty well!

Happy Mardi Gras 2014!

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Such good times!! I am so grateful that I have these memories of Mardi Gras!!!!

Happy Mardi Gras 2020!!!!

2 thoughts on “Flashbacks of Mardi Gras

  1. Those king cakes look delicious!!!!! Thank you for the great memories of our weekend there!! The boys look so young in those pictures…they still have many of their throws in that purple bead bag you gave us!! I would, however, like to forget that nightmarish drive down on that Friday!!!

    • Thanks, Kel!!!!! I ran out of steam this year and only did 2 batches. Hopefully next year I will be on it and will send you guys one! 🙂 I know, the boys were so young!!! That’s cool that they still have their throws! Hope memories of that drive go away!!!

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