There are two major weekends of parades in New Orleans for Mardi Gras season. This year, the first weekend was pushed up a week to accommodate the Super Bowl. I went to watch the parades with my kids, family and friends over the last few days, but I didn't think to take my Nikon camera with me. But of course, my iPhone 5 has a camera, and while the quality isn't close to the Nikon, you know what they say ... the best camera is the one that is with you. For those of you outside of New Orleans who have an interest in getting a small peak of Mardi Gras through the "eyes" of an iPhone, today's post will interest you. For those of you just looking for the typical iPhone J.D. product news and reviews, I'll have a more traditional post up tomorrow morning.
The first weekend parades are typically smaller in scale and grandeur than the ones closer to Mardi Gras day, but they are still lots of fun, and the crowds are often lighter which is a nice plus. The weather is often wonderful in New Orleans this time of year; this past weekend was in the high 60s and 70s. Many people outside of New Orleans only associate Mardi Gras with the debauchery in the French Quarter, but in Uptown New Orleans along St. Charles Avenue, the scene is Rated G or PG. Families and friends gather together and socialize as the parades pass by, and many folks bring ladders to help the smaller kids compete for beads with everyone else.
I'm not sure if this group of guys caught any beads all the way up there, but they did have a nice bird's-eye view of the activities.
The groups that parade are called Krewes. Every Krewe has a King on a float in the front, often followed by officers of the Krewe on horses and floats with maids in fancy costumes.
Next come the larger floats with many more riders ... and thus a much larger chance of catching beads, doubloons and other trinkets.
Typically, each float is separated by a high school marching band or a teenage dance team.
Every once in a while you run across dance teams composed of folks who are a little past their teenage years, but are still full of fun and young at heart. Here are a few examples, the first of which is the NOLA Cherry Bombs ("united by a hardcore passion for dance, for the city and people of New Orleans and for tutus"). [UPDATE 2/11/2013: I'm told that there are some attorneys in this NOLA Cherry Bombs group, but I'm not naming names.]
A few years ago, a group of guys decided that it would be funny — or at least fun — to start their own dance team. The result was the 610 Stompers ("Ordinary men. Extraordinary moves."), a group that — to the surprise of many — was even invited to participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
St. Charles Avenue is a beautiful street in New Orleans, lined with homes that are architectural gems in styles unique to this city and southern live oak trees planted over a hundred years ago. The branches of those trees sometimes come between the floats and the parade watchers, resulting in lots of beads stuck in trees. You especially see this at Mardi Gras time, but pretty much year-round if you look up on St. Charles, you'll see purple, green and gold beads.
The Uptown crowds are virtually always very friendly, but nevertheless there is a police presence just in case. Between Mardi Gras and the numerous other festivities in this city, the New Orleans Police Department is generally considered to be one of the most experienced in the world when it comes to dealing with crowds. The officers have a good sense of when to let things slide (such as indecent exposure in exchange for beads in the French Quarter) and when they need to step in.
There are many reasons that I love living in New Orleans, but enjoying Mardi Gras parades with my kids along with other friends and family is definitely on my top ten list.