Jenna the Yankee is BACK, and she’s got some pressing questions about Mardi Gras parades. Understand this new South Louisiana resident is a parade rookie this year, so go easy on the judging. (BTW-feel free to add YOUR helpful hints for this curious northerner…and anyone else who is a first-timer)
1. How long are these parades? In Iowa, we just had the Homecoming parade. That was 30 minutes, tops. And you could only hand out candy. There was no throwing of anything.
CANDY Jenna? How SWEET. Remember, these are not yo’ mama’s Iowa homecoming parades. Depending on the Krewe, the parades can be upwards of 2-3 hours - or longer with stops, which happens in most every parade. If it stops, you can camp out by a float to get more goodies thrown at you.
2. Why does everyone keep telling me to be worried about where to find bathrooms?
OK, let’s do some simple math: In New Orleans, for example, there are 1 million parade watchers consuming millions of gallons of beverages with a grand total of 20 public porta pottys every quarter mile. The lines can stretch almost to Biloxi. Are there other options? DEPENDS.
3. So, I keep seeing photos of children on ladders. This seems unsafe but also incredibly genius. Is this an elaborate ploy to use your kids to get the good Mardi Gras loot?
Paging Captain Obvious.
4. I can ask if I may “park here?” That goes for any area of Mardi Gras?
They will say no most every time…but that doesn’t necessarily mean you WON’T park there. (At least, that’s how many natives do it.) If you’re not into tow gambling, you may choose to shell out big bucks to park in a lot. CAUTION: Make sure the dude with a money belt at a building parking lot is legit before you pay the $40 to park there. He could have sneaked in there when the real guy went to the porta potty (See answer to question 2)
5. What does one wear to a Mardi Gras parade? Do I have to have a costume?
The natives know that most traditional costumes don’t draw enough attention. Many parade goers who actually decide to go the costume route will make their own, showing a lot of...creativity. And it's been that way for years, as you can see from this 1984 classic.
(PHOTO: George Long Photography)
6. Do they throw candy? Or is it mostly cups and shirts?
Most natives view candy as tame and lame. Multiple beads are appreciated, but about half of those are broken. That’s why cups, t-shirts, Frisbees and miniature footballs are more preferred. The most valuable are the colorful beads the size of Christmas ornaments. Those may require your phone number.
7. Are there dance troops and cheerleaders in the parades?
Yes! Besides the floats and marching bands, there are ladies from the krewe courts, dancers, cheerleaders, baton twirlers, AND those along the route who want to take some of them home as souvenirs. As a result, they have security dudes flanking them that are the size of downtown buildings.
(PHOTO: Courtesy of George Long Photography)
8. Why is it so many nights for so many weeks? I thought it was just one day?
ONE day for parades? Really Jenna?
9. What do the beads mean?
Well, the various Tourist Commissions say the purple symbolizes justice; the green represents faith; and the gold signifies power. What they really mean is...they got around the neck because somebody smiled, flirted, blew kisses, or used some other way to get noticed.
10. Is there food there?
There are two kinds of food near the parade route: the kind you pay huge amounts of cash for, AND the kind you can free-load from strangers. There are several ways to do this, but being friendly to the guy working the grill at a paradegate is usually a slam-dunk. An easy way to get free snacks is to smile and say, “wow that smells amazing! What is that?” Nine times out of 10 will get you a plate or bowl.. While you’re eating in front of them, you need to ooh and ahh over how good it tastes. Gushings will get you more! A perhaps a hug or four! And you might have to pucker up buttercup!
NOW GEAUX GET EM JENNA!