Tag Archives: New Orleans

Shot of the Week

Mardi Gras 2011 Thoth parade route

Beads thrown from the floats get caught in trees off the parade routes. You can still find them dangling there all year long.

Thanks for reading all our Mardi Gras 2011 coverage this week! Let us know if you’re going next year…

Tara for TKGO

Mardi Gras 2011: Get More Swag!

Mardi Gras is all about sharing. When you want something your neighbor caught four of, you’ll believe me.

But there are some items you won’t give away, no matter how much little kids stare and adults drool. Ladies and gentlemen, TKGO picks the top throws from Mardi Gras 2011:

Mardi Gras throws 2011 bacchus rex endymion zulu musesSo how do you catch these awesome things? A few tips:

Beggars can’t be choosers. A sign that reads “Mini Hurricane Glasses, Please!” will only get you angry glares. But at the Muses parade, an all-women krewe where the coveted throw is a hand-decorated high heeled shoe, the more playful, less demanding signs (“Mama needs a new pair of shoes!”) got plenty of laughs from krewe members and a shoe for the spectator.

Make eye contact with one krewe member on the float. It doesn’t necessarily take words to form a friendship. Don’t forget your manners! Thank them afterward for what they throw you—they may toss something else your way!

Befriend spectators standing next to you. If they know you want something they already have, trade! (They also may know someone in the parade, which can’t hurt.)

Sing the Saints song or show some general spirit. Who from New Orleans doesn’t cheer for their teams? Krewe members do…

And if you’re really desperate, hang out at the parade origin to hear the announcements of which float each krewe member is assigned. Call their names as the float passes by and hope you look like someone they actually know.

Any helpful tips or favorite throws? Share them in the comments!

Tara for TKGO

Mardi Gras Parades 2011: The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club

Zulu feels different from many of the other parades. They borrow a few floats from other krewes and throw beads made for parades as far back as 2009, but the sentiment here is unrivaled.

The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club isn’t called a krewe—it was founded in 1916 before the term was popular—but it is one. Zulu is one of the oldest organizations to march. Their parade takes place at 8 a.m. on Fat Tuesday, so the highly motivated will stay up all night on Monday and go to bed after the parade ends Tuesday morning. (If you plan to do this, you should know Zulu’s notorious reputation for running late.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Zulus offer arguably the most sought-after throw of Mardi Gras—the coconut. A throw is anything given away by krewe members on the floats or walking through the streets during the parade, and can range from plain sets of beads to pendants to an item exclusive to that krewe. Zulu’s coconuts are hand-painted and/or carved by individual members of the krewe, so they don’t throw them to just anyone.

In the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, Zulu ran into controversy with its costumes—grass skirts and blackface don’t exactly promote racial equality. You’ll still see the marching Zulus wearing this in recent parades, and in fact they are known for the intricacy and detail used to construct their outfits.

Tara for TKGO

Anatomy of a Mardi Gras Parade: Krewe of Thoth

The parades are central to Mardi Gras. It’s where you get the beads, hang out with your friends and, for some (most), carry your booze around with you in the street.

Each parade is organized by a krewe (pronounced “crew”), whose members pay for everything they throw to crowds from the floats, from beads to high heeled shoes. Member dues, which can be thousands of dollars a year, pay for float construction and costs associated with the ball typically held the night of the krewe’s parade.

Though the number of floats and length can vary, many feature roughly 30 floats and last for about two hours assuming there are no delays (which there inevitably will be). The bands, cheerleaders and step teams from local schools aren’t restricted to marching in just one parade, so you’ll see them in many as krewes typically give the schools funding in exchange.

Check out some highlights of the Krewe of Thoth (pronounced “toth”) parade through Uptown this year. Thoth was founded in 1947 and its parade is sometimes known as the “Parade of the Shut-Ins”—its route passes 14 institutions for persons with disabilities and illnesses.

Parades run through Fat Tuesday, when the first two still-active krewes march through the streets. The city goes back to “normal” on Ash Wednesday. (It’s all relative.)

Tara for TKGO

Mardi Gras Parades 201: New rules to live by

You may have noticed New Orleans marches to the beat of its own drummer. During Mardi Gras, that multiplies tenfold.

Rule 1: Given the choice between cold hard cash and a necklace of plastic beads, there is no chance you will go home richer.

Mardi Gras 2011 Uptown New Orleans marching band

Beads become the currency of the town this week of the year (and probably more). Even the military marching bands pride themselves in their bead collections! The best time we had was handing out every necklace we caught that morning to a high school marching band’s brass and woodwind sections, which they piled on top of their uniforms.

By contrast, cash is only necessary when you crave a Po’ Boy, a daiquiri or a candied apple.

Rule 2: Dress in your Sunday best. (Green, purple and yellow, of course.)

Mardi Gras 2011 costume

Your outfit doesn’t need a theme—nor does it have to be out of the ordinary! But we find dressing in costume facilitates livelier conversation. As part of this horrific getup, you’ll want a bag for all the beads you catch, pockets for keys/ID/cash (don’t bother with a purse, ladies), a zip-up hoodie and your least favorite pair of old sneakers.

If you didn’t bring (in)appropriate clothing, don’t stress. You’re likely to catch plenty of worthy accessories as they fly off floats, like these toilet seat sunglasses.

Rule 3: Don’t get frustrated with big crowds; your patience will pay off in new friendships.

Mardi Gras 2011 Uptown New Orleans

You could argue all day whether Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent disasters that befell the city are what made the residents of New Orleans infinitely kinder people. But there is no denying that people in New Orleans are better able to sympathize and identify with each other than your average American city. This isn’t Southern Hospitality—this is New Orleans hospitality, and you’ll notice the difference.

Tara for TKGO

Mardi Gras Parades 101: Setting up camp

There are worse things than getting caught in a group of tourists in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. They’re usually nice people and Mardi Gras puts them in a good mood (read: they’re happy drunks).

As fun as the French Quarter can be, if you want to get a real taste of Mardi Gras, camp out on the local side of the parade routes. We spent most of our time in Uptown, where the parades run straight through neighborhoods (and some a block from my friend’s house!)

In the French Quarter, especially on Canal Street routes, you can expect a reasonable amount of order and police department management:

Mardi Gras 2011 in the French Quarter

But in Uptown, police puff on cigars and joke with the neighbors. Kids romp in the streets between parades. Whole families set up shop hours in advance on either side of the road and on the neutral grounds, or the grassy area that runs down the center of the larger roads.

Mardi Gras 2011 in Uptown, New Orleans

You’ll see barbecues on the sidewalks and whole picnic table pot luck spreads next to cases and kegs of beer.

Mardi Gras 2011 parades in Uptown, New Orleans

How to tell a local from a poser (like me)? Many of them bring hand painted ladders with boxes on top where the youngest kids sit to watch the parade. To transport the contraption, there are two wheels attached to the box.

Kids are happy because they can catch more swag, and dads are happy because they don’t have kids sitting on their shoulders while they down a cold one. Win-win all the way.

Mardi Gras 2011 parades in Uptown, New Orleans

What do you bring to these fantastic parades in Uptown? And who’s riding the floats, you ask? More on the way…

Tara for TKGO

Shot of the Week

Houses of typical architecture in the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

Typical architecture in the French Quarter in New Orleans. During Mardi Gras, residents hang out on the porches to throw and catch beads from above.

Tara for TKGO