Mardi Gras Parade Watching For Dummies (And Anyone Else Who Forgot!)

Now that parade season is almost upon us, most of us who have been in South Louisiana know the drill with Mardi Gras Parades.However, there are some natives who perhaps haven’t been to a parade in years; not to mention out-of-towners and recent residents who have no idea of what to expect.For them (and really for the rest of us), here is a list of questions and answers designed to educate and/or review how to be an effective parade watcher. The basic list:

1.How long does a parade last?

Remember, these are not ya mama’s Arkansas high school homecoming parades. This is REAL serious fun. Depending on the Krewe (that’s the organization putting on the parade), they 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 stationary float to get more goodies thrown at you.

2. Why does everyone worry about restrooms?

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.What about parking?

If you ask, 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)

4.Should I wear a costume?

The parade pros know that most traditional, modest 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…planning to get noticed. It’s encouraged, as long as you don’t go too far with exposed skin. There could be some embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions. (Or not so embarrassing, depending on the amount of liquid refreshment consumed) The real attention-getters use float loads of creativity, as you can see here. (Photo: Courtesy of George Long Photography)

5.What about the throws? Do they throw candy? Or shirts and cups?

Most parade experts 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. But "bead" prepared; especially ladies. Those may require your phone number.

6. Besides the floats, are there dance troops 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 often the size of downtown buildings. (Photo: Courtesy of George Long Photographer)

7. What is the significance of the beads?

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 ways to get … um….noticed.

8. What about food?

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 parade gate 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. Gushing will get you more!

9. Are there any tricks to catch more throws? It’s assumed that the cute babies and hot-looking women get the most stuff, and to some extent that is true. But, if you’re a guy having to stand way behind everyone else, you can make eye contact with that dude on the float with the really cool football, and let him know you CAN catch that ball. Every guy on a float wants to find his inner Drew Brees, so let him have his 3 seconds of glory, and you can get that awesome throw. Depending on his arm strength and accuracy.

10. How can I get the official doubloons?

The floats are fairly generous with these, throwing a couple of dozen at once. If you can catch it on the fly, you’re pretty awesome. But, if they hit the ground in front of you, NEVER NEVER NEVER pick it up with your hand. You might get smashed by an eager foot of someone else who REALLY thinks they deserve that that collector’s item more than you. If they stomp on the doubloon before you grab it, don’t try to protest, or even shame the new owner.You’re wasting your breath. Learn from the experts. Use your own foot.


Scotty Mac

Scotty Mac

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