photo sharing and upload picture albums photo forums search pictures popular photos photography help login
ravenoaks | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> A MARDI GRAS REPORT tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

A MARDI GRAS REPORT

https://pbase.com/ravenoaks/mardi_gras_05

Dear Folks


Celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans is something that everyone should experience. It is truly the greatest party ever staged. Mardi Gras touches every sense one possesses. It a visual kaleidoscope of every imaginable color and hue, a symphony of music and song, a combination of smells and tastes found no where else, and a rhythm of street dancing that envelopes the entire crowd. I doubt that Sara and I will ever see anything like it again without returning to the “Big Easy”. And yes we would consider doing it again. We spent four days on the streets of New Orleans, the last during Fat Tuesday.

We attend six parades, four daytime and two night events.

First for some history. Mardi Gras origins predate even 1700 France. It was a celebration of fertility for the coming spring but fearing the carnal nature of the event, the fathers of the Catholic church, (wouldn't you know) decided if they couldn't stop it at least they could channel it toward a more religious nature, namely the last party before the beginning of Lent or literally “Farewell to Flesh.” The first Mardi Gras in the New World was held in 1699, 60 miles south of New Orleans by French explorers. The celebration has now spread from Florida to Texas with the finale on Fat Tuesday or the day before Ash Wednesday, the traditional start of Lent.

According to the official Arthur Hardy’s Official 2005 Mardi Gras Guide, this event is big. How big? In 2000, its financial impact on New Orleans was over a billion dollars with over 1.3 million visitors, 53 parades featuring 1,061 floats, 588 marching bands and 135,000 parade participants and all of that in the 12 days of Carnival season with the most activities in the last five days culminating with Fat Tuesday. During Mardi Gras week it is not unusual for the parades to be three hours late.

One of the biggest misconceptions about Mardi Gras that it is X rated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Believe it or not, it is a very family oriented event. Sara and I saw more families with small children than anything else. There were folks in their 80’s dressed in full costumes having the time of their lives. There were babies in strollers pushed by their older brothers or sisters enjoy the sights and sounds of the day.

The nudity is limited to Bourbon St and is usually late at night. In fact, there have been no parades on Bourbon St since 1973, due to the size of the floats and the narrow streets. The one exception is the famous Pete Fountain Half Fast Walking Club Parade that we had the fortune to see on one of our few visits to B Street. It was hilarious with some of the true veterans of Mardi Gras in attendance, all dressed in reds and blues . While we certainly saw people who were street drinking, which is legal during Mardi Gras, the number who were obnoxious was very small. One of the reasons is the ever presence of police. Officers are brought in from all over the state of Louisiana for the event and they don't mess around. When you are asked by a policeman to do something, you do it, and fast. With mobile booking units, mounted and motorcycle officers, and patty wagons on side streets jut waiting, the whole law enforcement strategy seems to be “move quickly and remove the problem from the scene”.

Who sponsors Mardi Gras? It is illegal for a corporation to sponsor a float or event. That is the beauty of it all. It is a party for the common man, put on by the common man. Even during the years of slavery, everyone including the poorest of the poor were given time off to celebrate. In fact many of the traditions of Mardi Gras have their origins from the slaves of the south. The Mardi Gras Indians are black men who dress in some of the most elaborate costumes of parades.

The floats and parades are sponsored and paid for by the different krewes. A krewe is a fraternal organization much like the Kiwanis, Shiners or Knights of Columbus of the north. The krewe’s names come from Greek, Roman or Egyptian mythology or the neighborhood in which the parade passes. There are krewes of Hermes, Tucks, Endymion, Bacchus and Zeus. Probably the most famous are Zulu and Rex who were all black and white respectively, until 1992 when the city of New Orleans ruled that all krewe memberships must be open to anyone regardless of color or gender. Today all the krewes of Mardi Gras are integrated and perform charity work throughout the year. The “greatest party on earth” is not advertised by the city of New Orleans and it has no official poster. The city doesn't spend a cent promoting it.

What makes the parades of Mardi Gras different than most is the tradition of “throws”. In an attempt to encourage people to attend the parades in early days, each krewe would throw beads, cups, coins or doubloons and trinkets. . Keep in mind that each float pays $8000 to enter a parade and that each rider pays $500 for the privilege of being on the float and they buy all their own throws. The shout “Throw me something, mister” is heard loud and often as the parade floats pass. Many families spend more on Mardi Gras than Christmas, Halloween and New Years combined. The official colors of Mardi Gras are purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. Sara and I caught over 250 strands of beads. Quite an accomplishment, until you wonder what the hell we are going to do with them. Oh, well, they are supposed to bring good luck during the next year so don't be surprised if you get some in the mail. We sure had the fun getting them.

Another tradition of Mardi Gras is King’s Cake. There are more that 750,000 king cakes consumed in New Orleans from the beginning of Carnival, King’s Day, Jan. 6 to Fat Tuesday. The cake is circular, sweet and decorated with purple, green and gold frosting. Baked into the cake is a plastic baby or trinket. According to tradition who ever gets that piece must buy next year’s cake for the family or group assembled.

When does the celebration end? In New Orleans, it ends when the police announce that “Mardi Gras is Over!!!!!” At 12 midnight, on Tuesday, by Louisiana law, you will be arrested if you do not leave the streets.

Sara and I thoroughly enjoyed Mardi Gras and would encourage everyone to take one in if you can. You will not be sorry. I took over 250 pictures. It was a photographer’s paradise and I have posted just a few on our photo web site at pBase.com…We are now in the heart of Cajun country at Lafayette LA. I am trying to make arrangements to wash dishes at the famed Prejean's cajun resturant in exchange for cooking lesson. To see our first Mardi Gras pic double click on the link below:

https://pbase.com/ravenoaks/mardi_gras_05
previous pagepages 1 2 3 ALL next page
THE COLOR WAS INCREDIBLE
THE COLOR WAS INCREDIBLE
THE BULL TAURUS
THE BULL TAURUS
THE BANDS
THE BANDS
THE BIRDS
THE BIRDS
THE GATORS
THE GATORS
GOD'S PEOPLE HAD THEIR WORK CUT OUT FOR THEM AT MARDI GRAS
GOD'S PEOPLE HAD THEIR WORK CUT OUT FOR THEM AT MARDI GRAS
THE HARLEY PEOPLE WERE WELL REPRESENTED
THE HARLEY PEOPLE WERE WELL REPRESENTED
previous pagepages 1 2 3 ALL next page