By Sandy Zimmerman
(Photos by Sandy Zimmerman)
There is an excitement in the air, a happy “forget about everything” attitude. Everyone seems to enter the fantasy world of the Mardi Gras, to wear a costume and become a part of the festivities. I did not realize that the unique costumes and beautiful floats would become so mesmerizing, so captivating. We are anonymous in our costumes, caught in the revelry.
Some of the newer Krewes (associations) allow the public to ride on their floats and enjoy their parties. New Orleans has one big party from Fat Tuesday, January to the day before Ash Wednesday, February. We were invited to join the Phunny Phorty Phellows Krewe as they officially opened the Mardi Gras celebration. This group has been celebrating the Mardi Gras since 1878.
The Storyville Stompers band played New Orleans-style jazz while costumed revelers gathered at the party-decorated streetcar to announce, “The season of Phun and Phrivolity” has arrived. I was dressed as Cleopatra and entered the streetcar with the PPP’s and their band, and we were ready to go!
During the ride, some people danced in the aisles and at their seats while a girl brought everyone slices of traditional Mardi Gras King Cake. The crowds in the street yelled, “Throw me something mister,” as they jumped to catch the beads and trinkets that we threw. It was an experience I will never forget!
The Mardi Gras floats and parties are sponsored by Krewes whose members must hold a ball and a parade of either floats or bands. The Superkrewe tradition began in 1969 with the founding of the Bacchus Krewe, named after the Greek god of wine.
When Bacchus came onto the scene, their enormous floats stunned and delighted parade goers and city officials with both their size and beauty. Also, Bacchus’ first King broke from tradition and created a new one in that it wasn’t a city leader but Hollywood actor Danny Kaye
Some of the other Kings were Bob Hope, Dolly Parton, Wayne Newton, John Goodman, Jackie Gleason, Dennis Quaid, Kirk Douglas, Harry Connick Jr., Billy Crystal, Tom Jones, Neil Sedaka, Paul Anka, John Goodman, and the Beach Boys.
The recently established Krewe of Orpheus was founded by Harry Connick, Jr. Super-krewes – Bacchus, Endymion, and Orpheus, scheduled for the three nights before Fat Tuesday, feature a combined total of 110 floats, 90 marching bands, and more than 350 units.
Their collective 3,500 members toss more than 2 million cups, 3.5 million doubloons, and 350,000 gross of beads. They also annually invite guest celebrities to ride in their parades.
The first Mardi Gras parade in the United States wasn’t even held in New Orleans but in Mobile, Alabama in the early 1700s, when the area was still under French rule.
You can still attend the greatest FREE show in the world!
Unofficial state motto: The Cajun expression “Laissez les bons temps rouler” meaning “let the good times roll”! It strongly conveys the “joie de vivre” (“joy of living”) attitude that pervades south Louisiana.
Contact the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau for information,