Reflection · travel · vacation

Happy Mardi Gras! History, My First Krewe Parade

Growing up with a French speaking Grandmother, I always knew that Mardi Gras was French for Fat Tuesday. I also knew that it was the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Being raised Catholic Grandma made sure that I remembered to eat a big “fat” dinner that Tuesday every year because Wednesday meant a day of fasting and giving up something for Lent.

Over the years, I saw images and scenes depicting Mardi Gras festivals in places around the world. Even in school we were briefed on its history.

Mardi Gras is a season every year that really starts as Carnival and climaxes on Fat Tuesday. In places like New Orleans it has a very long history and more meaning than just the crazy costumes, beads, revelry, drunkenness, flashing and parades.

Knowing I was going to be in New Orleans during Carnival my planning included web research to brush up on the facts and found this Mardi Gras history lesson to be pretty concise and informative. I got lost in web land and remembered reading a book a few years ago, Downfall of a Good Girl. This sweet romance really piqued my interest in this annual event. Every time I see an NCIS: New Orleans episode around the week of Mardi Gras my yearnings persist.

2018 is my year. The Tri-Centennial Year of the city of New Orleans. Me. And my friends. In the Big Easy for Carnival.

Comparing my itinerary with the official Mardi Gras 2018 calendar brought out giddy girl excitement. Why? Well, the moon and stars aligned for me because the first parade of the season in the French Quarter hosted by Krewe du Vieux was the Saturday I was going to be in town. Yahoo!

Fast Forward to my trip. We went.

We stood in the crowds.

We met new people.

We had a great time experiencing a satirical and quite traditional Krewe Parade.

Satirical? Really? Oh my! Yes! This was not a parade for the narrow-minded. Nor was it a parade I would take minor children to. (This is certainly a parental choice. I did see a few children there and I am certainly not judging.) This year’s theme, in my mind was a sufficient warning.

The Krewe’s satire was bawdy and suggestive all while poking fun, or not so fun, at the Local Water and Sewer Commission. Some Krewes in New Orleans now steer away from some of these traditional satirical themes. Many use modern ways of pulling the floats. Krewe du Vieux (wikipedia.com) still holds to tradition with horses and mules.

History of Krewe du Vieux

Krewe du Vieux is quite known for bringing along the best Brass Bands in New Orleans.

better parade images than mine (nola.com) warning…some of these images are graphic and may be deemed inappropriate.

I loved the entire experience and pretty sure my friends did too. The throws ran the gamut from pieces of candy and mini frisbees all the way to these raucous fans.

I captured a few videos I have uploaded to my YouTube channel, She Sips Coffee. Feel free to stop over and take a peek. You will find them here.

Knowing what I now know about Krewe history in New Orleans and seeing a parade, I have a whole new respect for the hard work done by these organizations. Not just during the Carnival season, because the work gets done year-round. Many work to raise awareness and many drive philanthropic agendas. They plan themes and floats probably almost as soon as they tear down the last one. As millions of people swarm the Bayou to party, I wonder how many know the history and honorable work of many of these men and women in these organizations? The annual parades and balls boost the local economy each year and lots of crazy stuff happens. I wanted to learn another side, or the why behind a theme. I watched for the message the Krewes were sending to the local politicians. Colorful images with creative puns and bawdy humor were prevalent from float to float tying to the theme and proving the hard work of the smaller Krewes that collectively form Krewe du Vieux. It wasn’t about the best Brass bands marching in between although they set the pace and gave us a party rhythm. We danced. We laughed. We were shocked. We were awed.

I wish I could have seen more parades and taken part in a Krewe Ball or two. Guess I just have to plan another visit to The Big Easy and soak more of it in.

The day after the parade, I saw this on a corner in the French Quarter. (It wasn’t raining.)

I immediately thought about why they chose their theme. Ten years after Katrina and essentially with NOLA being 300 years old, I believe there is work to be done to ensure a sound place to live. And don’t you want to believe New Orleans citizens want to offer a great city for you and me to visit? I appreciated the satire even more. Seems the opinion of the Krewe is that it is time for change.

Have you been to Mardi Gras or Carnival in New Orleans or other cities? Share your stories and memories in the comments below. Please!

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