Mayor Mitch Landrieu
It was fabulous, darling, just fabulous. That’s how I would sum up the 2017 season. It was a warm Carnival , always preferable to a cold or wet one. When Fat Tuesday falls in late February, like it did this year, warm weather is practically expected. I’ve always loved Carnival since coming to New Orleans, it has always been my favorite holiday. I alway costume on Fat Tuesday in the colors of Carnival; purple, green, and gold. It’s a good look for me. Zulu always responds to a good costume; REX doesn’t if the costume mimics their look, which I do. I still do well at Rex, as I’m an enthusiastic parade goer and I’ve always reported positively and honestly about Rex on this blog, so karma is with me during their parade.
I’m in one of the earliest parades, KdV, Krewe du Vieux. It’s the parade most like parades from 100 years ago, which is why I take part. Participating in a parade remains one of the greatest experiences a New Orleanian can experience, and shouldn’t be missed. Every time a parade participant meets the eyes of a parade goer asking for a throw, a tiny piece of energy is transferred from parade watcher to parade participant. Over the course of an entire parade, the energy addition for the parade participant is slight but palpable. This boost lasts a day or two.
Handing out throws is the most elegant and fun micro moment repeated throughout the parade. The sheer joy of connecting with a parade goer is really big. Again, when, the parade is over, a parade participant feels the joy of mass giving on a repetitive level over a couple of hours. It’s a very happy effect.
Food wise, Carnival 2017 was a success. We finished up at Theo’s Pizza, who make a mean pie. It was delicious, and the wait wasn’t that long for Fat Tuesday. For the final 5 days of Carnival, I cooked macaroni and beef and made my wonderful sausage and chicken gumbo. That carried us through the main Carnival weekend with great style and elan. We ate our share of King Cakes and found Gracious King Cakes from the bakery to be stellar but when bought from Whole Foods, had aged considerably and the filling dried up.
Company was stellar. Over Carnival, alcohol flows freely, making parades in general more fun. I was with my girlfriend Sue and my good friend Billy and his friends. We drank every few days and good times ensued with or without booze. We all love the parades, with their bright lights, animals, freshness, music, spectacle, beauty and excitement.
I followed my usual plan, catching Zulu and Rex before hitting the French Quarter. Zulu didn’t disappoint. I saw Mayor Landrieu on horseback with his official posse. He looked happy, riding his horse in unison with other dignitaries and NOPD. I caught them at Jackson and Dryades, a traditional spot for me. Bought a drink at a local bar right before the parade and over the next hour I caught 5 coconuts. It was wild and a lot of fun. Zulu looked fierce in the brilliant sunlight. I missed my friend but really had a good time at Zulu 2017.
It was on to Rex around 9:30 by foot, and it takes about 20 minutes to walk to Harmony Street. The sights and sounds around me were intensifying as the day wore on. All the revelers on St. Charles, the crowds parked for Rex and the trucks to follow, it was a sight to behold. There really isn’t anything remotely similar to St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras Day. It’s a one of a kind event on a one of kind day.
The crowd around Zulu on Jackson, for Rex on St. Charles and Harmony, and walking toward home in Mid City was cordial and hospitable. New Orleanians celebrate Mardi Gras in their own ways. Some on the parade route, some in the street, some at home with friends and family. I passed many families in the neighborhood around Zulu and Rex BBQing
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.
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.
The 2013 Carnival season in New Orleans was one of the warmest on record, I didn’t wear a jacket until the last couple of days of the season. The Super Bowl interrupted Mardi Gras this year, so parades were held before and after the 9 day break.
Had a rather tough time at the parades this year, my large group of parade goers had winnowed down over time to just me and my beloved wife. Now that she’s gone, I saw the parades by myself. That’s not much fun, and it’s kind of sad.
I still enjoyed myself when the parades rolled. I’m such a huge Mardi Gras fan,I couldn’t help myself. I love the atmosphere, the bands, marching groups, floats, etc.
So we’ll start with the King of Carnival, REX. I dress in purple, green and gold most Mardi Gras, and this year I had a felt frog hat that added a bit of mirth to my serious costume.
REX is an old line krewe that is composed of 3 circles of membership. The inner ring is old blue blood types, and the King and Captain come from that group. The middle ring is new money types. They can become officers, but that’s it. The outside ring is composed of anyone, more or less. If you are successful in life and give something back to the community, there is a good chance REX may have a parade spot for you.
The first two rings of REX are very haughty on the parade route. They only throw to pretty girls and children. The last ring of REX throws to anyone. They are just happy to be riding with REX and give throws to the male sex even! Obviously, the sentiments laid out here are generalizations only.
REX looked grand, it’s the best looking daylight parade by far. The floats aren’t the huge ones that Bacchus, Endymion and Orpheus use, as the float chassis are build on very old wagon bodies, with wooden wheels on the floats!! I don’t know who repairs the wheels, the last wheel wright died a while ago, and I lost touch with the process.
Zulu rolled right at 8 am on Jackson Avenue on a beautiful Mardi Gras day. Marlin Gusman was on horseback with a gaggle of sheriff’s deputies, Mayor Mitch Landrieu was also in the parade.
Zulu appreciates costuming, and if you have a funny aspect to your costume, that only helps. Zulu has some haughty riders, but most aren’t. When the double decker, double length floats arrived, they were handing out coconuts with a frenzy. I caught 5, gave away 2 on the spot, and one later. I don’t remember any double floats in the past handing down so many coconuts.
Zulu now color coordinates their coconut colors! If the riders wore orange gowns, their coconuts were painted the same color orange.
I had to leave Zulu at 9 am to go home to pick up the smart card for my camera, then off to REX. On the way I say a man and his son walking around near Zulu. They were having a tough time getting there, so I reached into my bag and gave them a nice Zulu coconut. You never saw such big smiles! I was happy to give them that coconut.
Proteus the night before was one gorgeous parade. They are a very old krewe, from the late 1800s. Proteus also uses wooden wagon chassis and wooden wheels from long ago.
Muses is the biggest all female Carnival krewe in existence. The crowds turn out for Muses, since their reputation for new, novel throws has grown large. Their most unique and rare throw, the Muses decorated shoe throw, is highly sought after. I didn’t get any shoes this year, but got lots of other unique throws, including a Muses magnetic shopping list with pad, special marker,and erasable writing surface; Muses collapsible drink flask with carabiner; Muses shoelaces in a cool plastic test tube; Muses flashlight that flashes the Muses symbol (as in Batman and the Bat signal commissioner Gordon uses to get Batman’s attention); a Muses reusable grocery shopping bag; and a Muses bead catching net. The net was a pain at the parade, all the folks who received them waved them in everyone’s faces while trying to catch throws.
I noticed for several years that Muses only throws stuff with their logo on it. That means the krewe must buy all their throws from the krewe. That’s a very expensive proposition. Most other krewes require their members to buy some throws with their logo on it, but allow the members to augment their krewe purchases with generic, cheaper throws. I bet the Muses dues is less than the cost of purchasing all those krewe throws. I really don’t think the average Muses krewe member cares. To belong to Muses, is well, one of the more divine and sublime experiences in the New Orleans Carnival world.
Krewe du Vieux rolled very early in the season, moved back a week by the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, the first parade of the season had rather warm weather this year, As readers of this blog know, I’m in KdV, and I’m very partial to it.
All the reasons- the historic parade route, the donkeys, the brass bands, and the outright over the top ribald floats- have been covered in this blog numerous times. Yes, I love my KdV!!
Roger Goodell, long time NFL Commissioner, made a statement alluding to the KdV float, the anti Goodell signage in stores,restaurants and bars all over town, and the voodoo dolls he’s been given. He claims none of that influenced his decision to lift Saints Coach Peyton’s suspension a couple of weeks early. We all know better!
The krewe says they have the support of the other krewes and have arranged for the necessary floats. The Captain says the New Orleans Police Department never responded officially to the krewe’s application.
An adviser to our fine mayor, Mitch Landrieu,said the application ”fell through the cracks.” Apparently the police thought the application was for 2014, even though their enclosed check was for 2013.
The original Krewe of Freret started in 1953. I remember watching them on Freret St in the 1970s and 80s. In 1995, the krewe was in financial difficulties and stopped parading.
The new krewe says they will hold their ball and coronation. I’m pleased they are staying active with the plan to return to a parading krewe in 2014. The krewe’s web site says- WELCOME TO THE KREWE OF FRERET – WE CANNOT BE STOPPED!
In late 2011, seven young Loyola graduates lamented the notion of squandering hard earned money to join a formal Krewe where they knew virtually no one and would have limited input. So rather than joining an existing Krewe, they sought to enhance Mardi Gras by creating a world class parade.
Those simple three words that utter so softly off of your lips, “Krewe of Freret”, drive Tulane and Loyola alumni to come together for the greater good of Carnival. Whereas the word ‘Freret’ was previously a division line between two campuses, the Krewe of Freret aims to unify these enthusiastic young professionals and infuse new vigor into Mardi Gras while simultaneously fanning the revitalization of the Freret corridor and her traditions.
The Krewe has received incredible support from the community, with many Freret Street business owners counted as Krewe of Freret members.