A little more about New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. "Krewes" (pronounced like crews) are clubs or groups that organize the various parades. Largely social in nature, they often have a chosen king and queen who also ride in the parade on one of the lead floats. Many Krewes are named for mythical characters such as Thor, Isis and Zeus. Others are named for historical places or people. Examples include Napoleon, Caesar, Sparta and the one I attended, Pontchartrain.
"Throws" are the beads and trinkets the float riders toss into the crowds along the parade route. Most are the cheap novelty style of beads, but some do have some nicer bead items including doubloons (a two side dye cast metal alloy) or those with the Krewe’s name and logo. I saw a couple of the later, from the Krewe of Kent, but didn’t see any such items from the folks of Pontchartrain. I did score some of the plastic cups commemorating the parade which I will keep as a souvenir of the experience. (The beads will most likely go to some of the kids of friends who like those types of things.)
There are some parade tips that will help to make your experience more pleasurable. The first and foremost (although this wasn’t an issue for the area I was in) is that you should never reach to the ground to pick up anything as that would be a good way to get some broken fingers. Had our area been a bit more crowded, I can see this being good advice. Another bit of advice that should go without saying, is to not be rude or pushy in order to snatch up the beads and other throws offered. There will be many floats with lots of stuff available. If the stuff is important to you, you can also attend other parades to get different types of items.
I did find not having my purse with me to be a very good caution. It is just easier not to worry about keeping up with your stuff, or having someone lift your wallet or other valuables. I was told to wear stuff with pockets and to keep cash, credit cards and an ID in my jeans out of view and reach. My camera and cell phone fit nicely inside my hoodie pockets, which was perfect. I did wish that I had my larger DSLR camera with me, but not having it around my neck was also a bit of a relief.
Dressing in layers was also a wise suggestion. When I left my hotel that morning, it was sunny and warm. Well warm is relative. It was in the 50’s and the sunshine radiated heat especially on my black denim and long sleeved tee shirt. Later in the day, however, the wind picked up and scattered clouds were in the sky making the air cool to outright cold. I was happy to have my hoodie along which was good to break the chilly wind. Later at my viewing point, I found a building wall to cop a seat on. I was in the sun, with the rays keeping me very toasty warm. Within about 90 minutes, however (and long before the parade reached me) the sun was behind the building and I was in the shade. While in the sun I didn’t need my sweatshirt, in the shade I was happy I had it.
Last and certainly not least was taking care of bodily needs, specifically hydration and rest rooms . . . which obviously go together. Carry bottled water or something to drink. Along some of the parade routes there are "blue room" porta-potties. In the area I was at and along St. Charles Street, there weren’t any. I scoped out my spot directly across from a pub which even advertised and promoted their bathrooms for parade goers. The buck it cost me was well worth it having sat out there after lunch for over three and a half hours.
I had a great time attending my first Mardi Gras parade and look forward to perhaps returning to New Orleans when business will not keep me away from enjoying more of the celebration and festivities. Who knows, I may even pay the $600 to participate as a rider on a float, in full costume, doing the throws to others.