I am a Louisiana native, which means that I’ve had the good fortune of growing up with the most fantastic of all parties as part of my culture. When I was young, Mardi Gras was a time of king cakes and parades, beads and balls, costumes and parties. And most of all, we always had a full week vacation from school! Our family often jumped on the opportunity to get away and would go ski out west for the week. Mardi Gras never alluded us, though. No matter where we went; Breckenridge, Snow Mass, Purgatory, Park City; there always seemed to be carnival revelers there, enjoying some seasonal snow, which we don’t get back at home. Aspen and pine trees below the lifts dripped with purple, gold and green beads. Apres ski, Mardi Gras Mambo melodiously played and the revelers danced in their after ski boots.
My point is, we tend to celebrate Mardi Gras wherever we happen to physically be. There’s obviously no better place to celebrate Fat Tuesday than the Mardi Gras mecca, New Orleans.
I’m not actually in New Orleans this year. I’m in Nashville (my current home), living vicariously through friends and family’s Facebook and Instagram photos. We’re on our second king cake, here, as well. Apparently Whole Foods sells them! Even better, our favorite bakery, Merridee’s in Franklin, bakes them up, fresh to order.
I was in the Big Easy last year, though. I took all of the photos in this post at the Krewe of Orpheus parade, which rolls on Monday, also known as Lundi Gras. My brother also happened to be riding in a float with his fiance, so we stopped by before the parade rolled to say hi.
The great thing about NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) is that you are always guaranteed to see some interesting characters. This is amplified exponentially during Mardi Gars. Creativity mixes with chaos in the purest form of debauchery.
Another thing worth noting about this parade in particular, Orpheus was started by Harry Connick Jr. (a New Orleans native), his father, and Sonny Borey in 1993. There are always a slew of celebrities that ride each year. In 2012, Mariska Hargitay, Cyndi Lauper, Hillary Swank, Sarah Hyland, Bret Michaels, and of course Harry Connick and his wife, Jill Goodacre rode in the parade.
Cyndi was sloshed slightly inebriated and had a bit of difficulty climbing up the stairs of her float. Hillary was suffering from a runny nose and was continuously dabbing at it with a tissue
Harry’s wife, former Victoria Secret model Jill Goodacre, looked as svelte as ever.
Mariska seemed to be in great spirits, teasing fans and flirting with Harry.
When it was time for the parade to roll, we ran ahead to find prime spots along the route where we could catch some good loot (and I could take some close-up shots).
If you’ve never witnessed a proper New Orleans Mardi Gras parade, some of the things to look forward to are: the elaborately ornate floats, the soulful high school marching bands, the local all men or women groups that walk and dance in costume, and of course- the loot (beads, cups, stuffed animals…)!!!
Harry Connick’s float made it around, finally.
Those are men, btw. Yes, they are wearing naked lady suits.
Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland, somewhat unrecognizable in a red wig…
The longest float in the parade, The Smokey Mary, which my brother rides on.
The Muff-a-Lottas!! Get it? Well, if you don’t know NOLA culture, muffulettas are the famous, quintessential New Orleans sandwich that was introduced long ago from Italian immigrants. It’s the po’boy alternative… And I hope I don’t have to explain the significance of “Muff-a-Lottas”…..
Flying bead shot!! You will likely get smacked in the head with these plastic baubles at some point during a parade. It doesn’t hurt too badly… Just drink more of your beer. Better yet, turn it into a drinking game! Every time you get hit, chug…. (Yes, friends, if you weren’t already aware, it’s legal to drink in public, any time, anywhere, in New Orleans.)
Get down, girl!!!!
What is Mardi Gras exactly? Despite it’s debauchery, Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) has religious implications. It is the “feast before the fast,” and starts after the Epiphany, lasting through Ash Wednesday Eve (Fat Tuesday). For Christians, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, which occurs 46 days before Easter. Many Christians see Lent as a time of symbolic sacrifice and “give something up” for the duration, as they remember and celebrate human mortality.
Mardi Gras is also celebrated in Central-South America and the Caribbean, where it is called Carnival (or Carnaval). The most famous celebration is in Rio de Janeiro.
Next Year, we’ll be in New Orleans again for Mardi Gras. Maybe we’ll hit some other parades like Endymion, Bacchus, Zulu, or Toth. We’ll definitely be there to enjoy Orpheus, though. It’s become the largest krewe over the last thirty years and is likely considered the favorite by the locals.
If you’ve never been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and plan to go, try skipping the French Quarter and Bourbon Street (it’s a hellish mosh-pit), and check out the parades instead!
Thanks for stopping by!