2015 was my best Mardi Gras in five years. I saw more parades and had more fun. That’s due to better parade company. I’m a parade freak, and if I go to parades with like minded freaks, I’m apt to enjoy myself lots more. 3 years ago I was forced to change my long term parade freak partner and it took me a couple of years to get it right again.
Wednesday, February 12 when Druids and Nyx rolled, I paraded with a special friend of the opposite sex who I hadn’t paraded with before but she told me she was a parade freak. That turned out to be true and a surreal, delightful Mardi Gras parade night was had by both of us.
At Zulu I caught 4 coconuts and at REX, which had a different medallion for each float, I caught over half. I do fairly well at the parades although I’m rarely the target demographic because I costume a bit for all parades and I’m active on the parade route, that is I scream Happy Mardi Gras, Throw Me Something, and other similar exhortations. I had a ball at the parades on Fat Tuesday 2015. It was quite cold all day and windy, but the rain held off completely. I biked to Zulu and then biked to REX.
Surviving Fat Tuesday on Rouses’ Cheese Straws
My food situation was well in hand on Lundi Gras, but by Fat Tuesday, all my plans of a delicious spread had fallen apart. I had made a big pot of my special red beans in the crock pot, and bought a high grade of cold cuts, some mini pistolettes, good cheese and tomatoes to make some sandwiches to eat on the go. On my bike I couldn’t carry the container of beans, and I couldn’t find my cold cuts. So off I went on Mardi Gras Day on my bike with a package of Rouse’s cheese straws, some Pepperidge Farm Nantucket cookies, and two small packs of Cheetos. All day I snacked on the cheese straws, which were to die for- deep cheese flavor with just the right amount of heat and spice, plus some vodka and OJ and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Young Parade Goers Costume in Large Numbers
One of the most heartening trends this year was the preponderance of young parade goers who costumed in some respect for all the parades, not just Fat Tuesday. I took the St. Charles streetcar a lot in 2015 for Carnival and every time I got on there were lots and lots of young folks wearing a head piece, mask or other costume part. I realize part of my attraction to Mardi Gras is the make believe and fantasy aspects of the celebration, so I really found all this new costuming very attractive. You can dress up and become anyone or anything your mind and imagination can envision and create. The possibilities are endless.
Adult Dance Troupes Take Center Stage
More and more high flying adult dance troupes have joined in the parading fun. The Sirens, Muff-A-Lottas, 610 Stompers, Disco Amigos, Pussyfooters, Dames de Perlage, Try Athletes, Bearded Oyster Dance Troupe, Rolling Elvi, Organ Grinders, Roux La La, Amelia Earhawts, Kolossos, and the Star Wars themed 501st Legion were just some of the fab groups entertaining the crowd. I have a friend who texted me after a fun night of parading together that she found a Roux La La couzy in her bra when undressing that night. She said it was the perfect testament to a great evening. O.K., maybe she’s more than a friend.
Lighted beads were ubiquitous for the night parades. Proteus lit up the necklace part, not the medallion like everyone else. There were light up pitch forks, blades, styrofoam tubes, and just about anything else a light could be attached to.
Muses is well known throughout the Mardi Gras universe for their shoe throws. I received my most unusual Muses throw right from a float rider. It was a pack of rice beads with the plastic connectors, but it has a small metal Muses M attached with the ubiquitous bead/medallion metal connector. What kind of statement was Muses making with these retro beads?
Nyx has really come into their own. There were decorated purses coming off the floats in large numbers and many dancing troupes.
360 lenticular cups were thrown by D’Etat, Orpheus, Babylon and Iris. A lenticular lens is an array of magnifying lenses, designed so that when viewed from slightly different angles, different images are magnified.
Parade Route Parties
I attended a number of gatherings along parade routes off of St. Charles and Frenchmen Street. I had a lot of fun and laughs at each and every party. Walking back and forth between the house and the parade is the height parade enjoyment. Some soirees are invitation only, which a security guard checking online invites, but for many others, just showing up is enough to gain entrance. Often the food, booze and crowd is a step above the average New Orleans party- and New Orleans is well known for throwing world class parties.
Proteus in the Daytime!
Hell freezes over! Pigs fly! Since the start of time, or whenever Proteus began parading, whichever came first, Proteus parades at night. Flambeaux carriers only light parades after the sun goes down. Wrong! The start time for Proteus and Orpheus were moved up 75 minutes due to inclement weather considerations, so they rolled in plain, old daylight.
I love Mardi Gras flags, the big and the small, the still and the fluttering, the traditional and the trendy. Originally, only Carnival flags were from the oldest krewes, who put the year they were King or Queen on one corner. Everyone else had only one option basically- a generic purple green and gold flag.
Some flags are very exclusive, and can only be flown by the former/current Queens, or Kings and Queens. Others are more egalitarian, allowing all members to exhibit them.
When Cleopatra and Oshun kick off on Friday evening, we launch the 10 day sprint known as Carnival in New Orleans. Krewe population trends varied around the metropolitan area, an interesting pattern to say the least. Orleans Parish organizations are growing by leaps and bounds, while Jefferson Parish saw several krewes fade away. I really cannot explain this development. The suburbs have been growing for decades as the city lost population. So why did Thor, Zeus and Atlas, three old Jefferson krewes with 140 years of parading history, cease marching?
In the past 17 years, 25 Carnival clubs have quit. The trend precedes Hurricane Katrina. In spite of the Orleans Parish parade moratorium, the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale received permission to ride this year on February 8. They will parade after the three previously scheduled parades. In Jefferson, the Krewe of Athena Carnival Club received a parade permit to follow Excalibur tonight.
Parade goers will have to come up with a new plan if they set up shop on certain neutral grounds and city street intersections this year. The Army Corps of Engineers’ drainage projects along Napoleon and Jefferson Streets will mess up lots of Carnival plans. Fences on the neutral grounds along Napoleon will severely limit parade watching.
According to Mark Romig, president of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation, the 2015 season will be a busy one, with many area hotels already filled up between now and Fat Tuesday. However, the Quarter and downtown have suffered recently from bad publicity due to a rash of robberies and assaults.
Additional state troopers were deployed in the French Quarter in August after more negative publicity when a shooting on Bourbon killed one woman and injured several others. Those officers left the city after the 2015 Sugar Bowl was concluded even though the mayor asked Governor Bobby Jindal to extend their stay.
Now, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson says he is working with New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu to extend their tenure. Plus, the tourism industry has ponied up $2.5 million to keep troopers here. That’s an impressive amount of money.
On a lighter note, the New Orleans Advocate is producing 14 full color Krewe Parade Bulletins for 2015. In 1886, the Krewe of Proteus became the first Carnival organization to present full color chromolithograph newspaper editions showing the float designs for it’s street pageant. Other krewes quickly followed suit, and these carnival editions or bulletins continued to be printed and sold on street corners for a dime until 1941.
This year, and this year only, Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day fall on the weekend before Fat Tuesday. Several krewes will indicate this event via their float designs and throws.
For most of the last 150 years, New Orleans official reviewing stand for Mardi Gras parades has been historic Gallier Hall. That changed when a large piece of the facade fell off the building last year, closing the building for 2015.
The 2015 version of Krewe du Vieux rolled throughout the Marigny, French Quarter, and Central Business District last evening before a large adult crowd, some small children, and a few kids who had no business attending. It was an all new route for the non-profit krewe dedicated to the historical and traditional concept of a Mardi Gras parade as a venue for individual creative expression and satirical comment.
Virtually all the music provided by the parade last night came from brass bands from around New Orleans.- Langiappe, Pinettes, Kinfolk, TBC, New Birth, Jazzmen, Bone Tone, Big Fun, One Love, Young Fellaz, Paulin Bros, Treme, Egg Yolk Jubilee, and Baby Boy. KdV is the top music parade in the city, and that’s no small statement. 20+ great brass bands truly enrich the parade going experience for both the participants and crowd. We march 3.8 miles across Marigny, the Quarter and the CBD, and every step of the way was a joy due to the continuous, non-amplified, mobile concert that accompanied each krewe.
The KdV pre-party was the food highlight of the evening. The abundant Popeyes’ fried chicken, red beans, po-boys, homemade cheesecakes, salads, and finger sandwiches went over very well. The best food I scarfed- marinaded filet mignon sandwich on biscuit with spring greens and goat cheese.
The temperature was in the mid 50s as the parade kicked off. The parade was the peak event of the evening. The brass band marching immediately in front of our mule was the Big Fun Brass Band. Behind me was Underwear stalwart Egg Yolk Jubilee. Both were extraordinary and added a lot of weight to the festivities. Since my position as Escort is next to the float, I mostly heard the band in front of me. After listening to and dancing to them for a couple of hours, I realized how much the band had improved my parade experience.
I have found that the amount of fun to be had being part of a parade is directly related to the amount of throws you have to throw during the parade. If you have enough throws so you can throw from beginning to end, you will have a superlative time. If you have less throws, you may not have as good a time.
Each sub-krewe that collectively make up KdV design their own hard biting, ribald float based on the mother krewe’s 2015 theme, KdV Begs For Change. This makes for well thought out, well constructed floats. I generally include a photo essay from KdV taken before the parade rolls, but after they have left the den and set up in pre-staging before moving to the start of the parade.
Brazil is suffering from the worst drought in over 80 years. Crops are dying from lack of water, millions of Brazilians are short of drinking water, and electrical blackouts are common. The drought has been worsening for over a year and has decimated southeastern Brazil, the nation’s richest and most densely populated region. As the Southern Hemisphere enters into the zenith of its summer season, the drought continues to worsen.
Over a dozen cities and towns in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais have called off or scaled back their Carnival celebrations. Ouro Preto is a city in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, a former colonial mining town located in the Serra do Espinhaço mountains and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its outstanding Baroque architecture, has been forced to rotate outages to ensure ample water for the 70,000 tourists who descend on Ouro Preto for Carnival.
In Brazil’s largest city, San Paulo, where water levels are alarmingly low, city council member Gilberto Natalini has called on the mayor and state governor to cancel Carnival and other humongous water intensive public events for the foreseeable future. It would be like dancing samba on a funeral, Mr. Natalini said.
Oliveira, with a population of 42,000, has canceled all 2015 festivities due to very low water supplies. They usually receive 20,000 Carnival visitors for its one week long Carnival celebration. The president of Oliveira’s Carnival Commission, Antonio Penido, said, Never in the history of our city has something like this happened. With broken hearts, we made the decision.
When the world thinks of Brazilian Carnival, it is Rio de Janeiro that comes to mind. The most out of this world and over the top version of Carnival will go on as scheduled with some concessions to current events. At least two of the large professional samba schools that create the event are scaling back water elements on their over-sized parade floats.
Light and mirror effects will be utilized instead of water to depict a rushing 20-foot fountain of youth for the Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school in Rio. Tourism officials in Rio are expecting almost a million Carnival tourists, who are expected to spend three quarters of a billion dollars on all the myriad of tourist restaurants, lodging, souvenirs, transportation and deluxe parade seating and event packages.
This is only the second or third story that will go on both of my blogs. Crime and Mardi Gras do occasionally mix.
There are signs all over the French Quarter which state Caution: Walk in Large Groups. We (heart) N.O.P.D. We Just Need More. This isn’t a good sign for a city about to enter one of the biggest holidays of the year, Mardi Gras. Approximately 1 million visitors descend on New Orleans each Carnival season and most will hit the Quarter soon after arriving. They will be greeted by a French Quarter bathed in unsettling signs.
Security is a growing concern to many New Orleanians and Americans. When New Orleans is perceived as a dangerous place, less people make plans to visit. The streets of New Orleans during Carnival are full of state troopers, federal agents, virtually half the police force at one time, plus scads of private security personnel. Downtown there are a lot of weirdos that make it down to Mardi Gras also.
In the last 11 years, at least 27 people were injured and one killed on parade routes and Bourbon Street. That is one horrific statistic. Carnival has historically had a violent side. I personally have been very close on St Charles Avenue to a major shooting incident a decade ago. I’ve had very large groups with me at times and much smaller at other, but no one in my group has ever been accosted on the parade route or downtown or in Metairie or other parades around the metro area.
Another growing trend, private security cameras, have caught many of these assaults and shown the brazenness of the perpetrators. The variety of weapons employed is staggering. This footage shows up on YouTube and adds to our collective anxiety.
Since Katrina, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has lost about 500 officers, and I’ve written about this problem recently on my other blog about jail and justice in New Orleans here. Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, a police union, says I have been to some roll calls where there is one cop, two cops. Mayor Mitch Landrieu would like around 1,600 officers. I’ve authorized as much overtime as is necessary, says our Mayor.
The Mayor has personally felt the sting of crime very recently. One of his personal vehicles was stolen in front of his home over the weekend. The 2006 Jeep was recovered within blocks of his house by an off duty Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy. The Jeep was equipped with LoJack technology. The deputy was heading home across the Mississippi River bridge after finishing a 12 hour shift. His LoJack receiver in his patrol car picked up the signal. He called in the information and found out the car belonged to the mayor of New Orleans. He followed the signal and found himself near the 2nd District Police station. He stopped and checked in, then began pursuing the stolen vehicle again. He ran into the Jeep at General Taylor and Constance streets.
Turns out the New Orleans police never received the LoJack signal as Jefferson Parish did. Hmmm.
According Glasser, This shows crime is not limited to a handful of people in the traditionally ‘bad areas.’ Anybody can be a victim, and ironically, the victim in this case is the person screaming the loudest that crime is down. And while he admits there’s a staffing shortage, I think he underrates the importance of that.
Huge route change this year, no idea why, but I plan to find out.
Normally the route starts and stops in the Marigny, and goes through the French Quarter too. This year, we march through the Marigny and the French Quarter but instead of doubling back, we march into the Central Business District, and turn up Julia St to O’Keefe where we end. I believe the length of the parade hasn’t changed, it’s still 3.8 miles. We cross Canal Street for the first time, that is exciting. Canal, Bourbon and St. Charles are the best known streets in the City That Care Forgot.
Marching in a parade is what living in New Orleans is all about. I’ve been in Krewe of Clones, Tucks, and now Krewe du Vieux. Mardi Gras is lots of fun as a spectator sport, but joining the parade changes things big time. The fun, comradeship and excitement of belonging to a Mardi Gras krewe cannot be beat. It’s a top drawer New Orleans experience.
From the KdV web site- The Krewe du Vieux was founded in 1987, born from the ashes of the fabled Krewe of Clones. The Clones began in 1978, based out of the Contemporary Arts Center. This ‘Art Parade’ became wildly popular for their imaginative and creative street performance art. By 1985, the Krewe of Clones had grown to 30 sub krewes and over 1,500 marchers. After the Clones imposed rules designed to create a respectable Uptown parade, Craig “Spoons” Johnson of the Krewe of Underwear and Don Marshall of Le Petite Theatre du Vieux Carre conspired to form a new parading Krewe. Their intent was to bring back parading in the French Quarter in the free-wheeling style of the Clones without myriad rules and expenses. Free from the constraints of decorum and reality, KdV was established as a official parade.
The next paragraph is from Wikipedia.com-
The Krewe du Vieux is perhaps simultaneously the most individualistic and the most traditional of all New Orleans parading krewes. It has no large tractor pulled floats like the larger krewes, using only old-style, small, human-drawn or mule-drawn floats interspersed with marchers on foot. It has no recorded music blaring from boom box trucks, for the Krewe du Vieux uses music only from live bands. The floats are handmade and decorated by members of the respective sub-krewes, often with themes satirizing local politics and customs, sometimes of a bawdy nature — in such aspects arguably closer to early-19th-century Carnival traditions than any other Krewe currently parading. The Krewe du Vieux is the only Krewe still allowed to parade through the French Quarter (other than some small walking Krewes on Mardi Gras Day); krewes with larger floats have been prohibited in the narrow streets of the old town since the 1970s.
In fact, Joan of Arc gets to parade in the French Quarter on 12th Night. They are a walking parade, much like KdV.
There aren’t many adult parades in Mardi Gras but KdV fits the bill. Ribald and rude is how I would describe my own Krewe of Underwear. I’m going to post some rude pictures of our floats in this article, so you can see for yourself.
12th Night has come and gone. The 2015 Mardi Gras season has arrived. My parade, Krewe du Vieux, rolls later this month with an all new route. That’s for another entry. This entry is about the Phunny Phorty Phellows, who roll on a decorated streetcar and Krewe de Jeanne D’Arc, who rolled downtown in the French Quarter, which means they basically are a walking parade, much like my own KdV.
The next paragraph is from the Joan of Arc Parade web site-
Our medieval-style parade is set in Joan’s time, 1400s France, with medieval costumes and music, characters on horseback, jugglers, knights, stiltwalkers, giant puppets, king cake and handmade medieval throws. In New Orleans, January 6 is also still celebrated as Twelfth Night, an old medieval holiday which is the kick-off to the Carnival season. We are a secular group, and we welcome anyone with an interest in Joan of Arc, be they Catholic or non-Catholic, artist or non-artist, French-speaking or not. We are an eclectic, authentic New Orleans blend of whimsical and reverent, sacred and secular, spectacular and contemplative.
All of Joan of Arc’s throws are handmade. That is rather extraordinary, as krewes, even walking krewes throw a lot of throws. Another interesting aspect of this krewe is their obsession with Joan of Arc. Krewe members often refer to their namesake as ‘Joan’. That is a bit weird.
The Phellows are a historic group, dating back to 1878. REX formed in 1872, making PPP virtually as old. In the old days, they were a parading group. For their first parade, PPP followed REX, which they did for the next few years. They stopped parading in 1898. The modern krewe was revived in 1981 and became a streetcar riding krewe in 1982. From 1981 to 1986, PPP marched with the Contemporary Art Center’s Krewe of Clones. The Clones are the predecessors of Krewe du Vieux. I was in Clones and am in Krewe du Vieux, which any reader of this blog certainly knows.
Other innovations and features: Beautiful invitations and dance cards like 1800s by a series of royal artists: Beth Kesmodel, Hal Pluche, Jeanne Woods, Arthur Nead, and Kevin Barre.
This is a smaller Mardi Gras than most, though it is beginning to get on the map due to their heavy duty, one of a kind Mardi Gras tradition. Binche is a Belgian town of 32,000 near the French border. They have a Mardi Gras folk tradition dating back to the 14th century, that UNESCO has designated a cultural treasure in the same class as Japan’s Nôgaku theater and Lithuania’s symbolic cross crafting.
After the early wake-up call, a breakfast of Champagne and oysters is customary. During the carnival, you’ll see Pierrot, Harlequin, and peasant costumes, but the central characters are the Gilles—local men wearing wax masks, wooden clogs, and elaborate black, red, and yellow costumes that are stuffed with hay and adorned with white collars and bells. In the mid-afternoon, nearly 1,000 Gilles converge on the town’s Grand Place, trade their masks for large ostrich-feather headdresses, sing, dance, and pelt the crowd with blood oranges, a symbol of fertility.
The Carnival of Binche is during the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The carnival is the best known of several that take place in Belgium at the same time.
Events related to the carnival begin up to seven weeks prior to the primary celebrations. Street performances and public displays traditionally occur on the Sundays approaching Ash Wednesday, consisting of prescribed musical acts, dancing, and marching. Large numbers of Binche inhabitants spend the Sunday directly prior to Ash Wednesday in costume.
The centrepiece of the carnival’s proceedings are the clown-like Gilles. Appearing, for the most part, on Shrove Tuesday, they range in age from 3 to 60 years old, and are customarily male. The honour of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is aspired to by local men. From dawn on the morning of the carnival’s final day, Gilles appear in the centre of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward off evil spirits with sticks.
Later during the day, they don large hats adorned with ostrich plumes, which can cost more than $300 to rent, and march through the town with baskets of oranges. These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd gathered to view the procession. The vigour and longevity of the orange-throwing event has in past caused damage to property – some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this. The oranges are considered good luck because they are a gift from the Gilles and it is an insult to throw them back.
Brazilian Carnival, accurately spelled Carnaval, is an annual festival in Brazil. It is held four days before Ash Wednesday, the day of fasting and repentance that marks the beginning of Lent.
Rio de Janeiro is the most famous city for carnival in Brazil. In carnival the different samba schools compete for the first place in elaborate parades that last for hours. In carnival all dancers wear incredible costumes of sequins and feathers. Rio became famous in the 1930′s for their parades, parties, and balls, which become larger and more impressive every year. The parade’s history began in 1928 and used to take different routes through the city before settling on its current path. Carnival parades pass through the enormous Sambodromo, a sort of long stadium. If you want to join in the samba parade, samba schools are always looking for extra performers to be part of the show.
Carnival is the most famous Brazilian holiday. During this time, Brazil attracts 70% of its tourists. Variations in carnival celebrations are observed throughout the multitude of Brazilian cities. Yet, a commonality observed among them is the incorporation of samba into the celebrations. The southeastern cities of Brazil have massive parades that take place in large sambadromes. The largest carnival celebration in Brazil and the world occurs in Rio de Janeiro, where two million people celebrate in the city. The city of Salvador also holds a large carnival celebration.
The carnival begins when Rio’s mayor hands over a huge gold and silver key to Rei Momo, the Fat King. A very large number of mini street parties are held prior to the carnival proper getting underway. Smaller local parades known as blocos are held across the city and attract thousands of spectators. Despite there being 17,000 portable toilets dotted around the city for the carnival, a Pee Patrol has been appointed to clamp down on revellers urinating in the streets. Over 1/4 million jobs will be created by Carnival and it will generate £420 million for local hotels, restaurants and bars. Carnival is Brazil’s most important festival but celebrations are held in Sao Paulo, Salvador, Olinda, Recife, Manaus and Porto Alegre.
20 Interesting facts about Rio Carnival from the Trinidad Express-
1. The carnival is a wild four-day party held 40 days before Easter.
2. It started yesterday and ends on ‘Fat Tuesday’, the day before the start of Lent, Ash Wednesday.
3. February is the hottest month of the year in Rio and the city is at its liveliest.
4. The roots of the carnival can be traced back to the Romans and Greeks who celebrated the arrival of spring with parties.
5. These traditions were carried over to the New World with Portuguese immigrants in the 1700s.
6. Their ‘Entrudo’ festival saw revellers throwing water, limes, mud and even food at each other.
7. Brazil’s carnival evolved over time with the addition of masquerade balls and then big street parades with groups of people playing music and dancing.
8. Today, carnival takes place in the city’s streets, bars and clubs.
9. Hundreds of street bands, singers and orchestras will entertain party-goers largely with samba music.
10. The carnival highlight, though, is the Samba Parade, a fierce competition between Rio’s samba schools, of which there are nearly 200.
11. Held in the purpose-built Sambodromo, the schools are judged on their elaborate floats, costumes, dancing and music.
12. Some of the schools are expected to spend up to £3 million on outfits and preparations.
13. The city’s poorest residents, from the slums, typically make up the majority of the schools.
14. Around two million people per day are expected to take to the streets this year.
15. The carnival begins when Rio’s mayor hands over a giant silver and gold key to Rei Momo, the Fat King.
16. Scores of mini street parties are held prior to the carnival proper getting underway. Smaller local parades known as ‘blocos’ are held across the city and attract thousands of spectators.
17. Despite there being 17,000 portable toilets dotted around the city for the carnival, a Pee Patrol has been appointed to clamp down on revellers urinating in the streets.
18.1/4 million jobs will be created by Carnival and it will generate £420 million for local hotels, restaurants and bars.
19. Carnival is Brazil’s most important festival but celebrations are held in Sao Paulo, Salvador, Recife, Olinda, Manaus and Porto Alegre.
20. Carnival attracts more and more celebrities with Jennifer Lopez attending last year’s event and Gangnam Style star Psy expected this weekend (from 2014).
Rio and New Orleans are often considered the most desirable Carnivals to visit. I’ve been to Rio, but not for Carnival. I’m very tempted to go in the near future. Since my parade, Krewe du Vieux, rolls very early- January 31 for 2015- I can participate in my parade and the first weekend here before flying to Rio. I’m getting excited just writing this entry!