I mentioned yesterday that I took the kids to New Orleans to visit family this past weekend. By family, I mean my aunt, my cousin and his wife & kids, and my grandmother. My dad and step-mom also flew in for the weekend. We had a blast visiting with the family.
Also while in New Orleans, we went to see a Mardi Gras parade.
Mardi Gras season is ramping up in New Orleans. It starts early, with a couple of parades in January and early February. There were several parades this past weekend. And then there will be dozens of parades starting this Friday and continuing through Mardi Gras day, which is March 8 this year. Here is a link to the list of parades and their schedules, if you want to see just how many parades there are.
Nearly everyone in New Orleans gets a week off for Mardi Gras. Schools are closed, businesses shut down.... the whole city participates. Of course, the businesses catering to the Mardi Gras crowd and tourists ramp up rather than shutting down, but most folks have holiday time because, really, with several parade routes throughout the city and the corresponding road closures, as well as the gazillions of tourists and their cars clogging up the remaining streets, there would be no way for them to get to work or school anyway.
Each parade is conducted yearly by a specific "Krewe," a membership organization which is in charge of designing the floats, filling out all required paperwork, and organizing the hundreds of people who will ride, drive, or march in the parade. Each year, the floats will have a different theme, sometimes serious, sometimes fun, sometimes satirical in nature. From the link I gave you above, you can click on the name of each Krewe to read some historical information about the Krewe, as well as what their parade theme is for the year, what parade route they will follow, and what sort of "throws" they will have.
The Krewes provide not only the floats and parade marchers, but also "throws," which means the beads and trinkets and other assorted items thrown from the floats during the parade. These are quite varied and can be anything from the standard mardi gras beads (you have to promise to throw a certain number of new ones), to fancier beads with the name of the Krewe, light-up necklaces, insulated lunch bags, commemorative cups, luggage tags, note pads, small flashlights, plastic doubloons, bracelets, magnets, balls, stuffed animals, and so on.
Usually, the throws will reflect the Krewe's theme, and/or the theme of the Krewe's parade for the current year. My favorite "throw" was from a couple of years ago -- a feather boa in green, gold, and purple feathers (the official Mardi Gras colors), with small lights that you can turn on or off, or set to "blinking." Classy, right?! I wear it often.
Each Krewe tries to outdo the other Krewes and their own past parade throws when selecting this year's throws, so every year, the selection gets more varied and interesting.
So, this past Sunday, we went to see the parade sponsored by the Krewe of Little Rascals, which is an all children's parade. Well, of course they had some adults -- someone has to supervise the kids and drive the tractors that pull the floats, after all. But the Krewe members and the float riders are all children, and there were numerous kid groups marching, as well -- dance troupes, school bands, and so forth. This year's "Queen" was Taylor Shelenhamer, and she rode on one of the fanciest floats, handing out white beaded necklaces with a plastic medallion with her likeness in gold. Very cool.
The Krewe of Little Rascals was founded in 1983. Here is a link to the Krewe's web site.
My kids loved the parade. We caught a gazillion beaded necklaces, a green plastic water gun, several superballs, a couple of handfulls of candy, and a whistle.... and probably lots of stuff I've forgotten.
I may forget some of the stuff, but I won't forget how much fun my kids had. What a parade!