When visiting Mobile Alabama, we came across some statues in the park, these statues are dedicated to Mobile, Alabama being the birthplace for Mardi Gras in the USA in 1703 as a French Catholic tradition. Originating in medieval Europe in the 17th Century through Rome and Venice to the French.
Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday refers to the carnival celebration which begins after the Christian Feast of the Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday which is known as Shove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday is the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before Lent.
The Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans goes for a good month until 14th February then there are daily parades up until Fat Tuesday 25th February. They have several parades a day and they have different krewes (crews) which is a social organisation that puts on a parade, the krewes represent a particular group or figure and then decorate their floats appropriately. For example, the Krewe of Alla was established in 1932 and honours the armed forces and first responders from across the country. There are krewes that honour Egyptian gods and even those that make a political statement.
Only recently (1870) was the introduction of throwing beads and throws, they throw trinket items like necklaces, bracelets, soft toys, glasses and all different types of items with their particular group/krewe name on it. Some throws are very sort after for example the “Muses Krewe” have glittered high heeled shoes and are often fought over when throw into the crowd.
When we arrived at our motel in New Orleans we were issued arm bands that had to be worn for the four days we were there and to access our motel we had to show our room key and the arm band to the police officer at the desk. I stated that it didn’t fill us with confidence but the receptionist explained that it was to stop non motel guests from entering and that they have a lot of drunk party goers who can’t remember where their motel is. We were advised to be very vigilant of pick pocketers but we were a bit surprised by the armed coast guards patrolling the foreshore.
We headed downtown to watch an afternoon parade and even though we really didn’t get the gist of them throwing all the items we soon got into the swing of it and were yelling and waving to get them to throw a prized item to us. Most people dressed up in the Mardi Gras colours of purple, green and gold and had elaborate signs to catch the float throwers attention.
You need to keep an eye on the floats at all times because as soon as you look away you will get hit in the head by flying objects which happened on several occasions.
The school bands play inbetween each float and some schools are quite large with marching band and their cheer dancers.
Later that day we headed into the French Quarter which was an eye opener particularly Bourbon Street which was shoulder to shoulder of people all with a drink in their hand. You can buy “fishbowls” full of alcohol and walk the streets, they have an open container policy as long as it is not glass. You will see lots of people dressed up in their Mardi Gras gear, some which are really clever, some which don’t leave much to your imagination and some which are just plain wrong!
However, the architecture in the French Quarter is beautiful and worth the visit despite the extra million people that attend Mardi Gras. Interesting fact (from a local Baton Rouge) – New Orleans use to be the Capital of Louisiana, but because of its status as a party town, they moved the Capital to Baton Rouge, but I can’t find any reference to support that, but can definitely agree that it is a party town.
It was interesting that the parade route is fenced off, labelled “police line do not cross” and patrolled by the local police but the police do not stop people from crossing over in front of the floats. We heard that one person was already killed from a float so was surprised that the practice was still going on.
On our last night we attended the Krewe of Endymion parade which is the biggest parade with over 80 floats and they estimated that 5 million items would be throw from these floats. We purchased grandstand tickets for this parade but after the 1st float went by the parade stopped and there was no movement for quite a while, when we got the news that someone was crushed between the floats and died. This happened at the 14th float so they allowed the floats in front to finish the parade but then directed all the other floats back to the start and that was the end of the parade.
We enjoyed this festival and if anyone gets an opportunity to go to one, we would recommend it especially if you like to dress up and party hard.