Day Seven: Mardi Gras Day! (Part One)

Fat Tuesday hatIt’s Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras Day); today was the big day and it started early.  There are four parades beginning at 8 a.m.  We bought grandstand viewing tickets for today’s parades, which was a wise investment!  This way we wouldn’t have to get up at the break of dawn to find a place to see the parade, would be able to sit down and have access to bathrooms.  The grandstand was conveniently located about 10 blocks from our hotel and an easy walk.  We got there around 8:15 (the first parade was expected to get there around 9:30) and got a front row seat.  It was cold, but the sun eventually peaked around the tall downtown buildings and made a huge difference.

The people watching was spectacular! Today is a holiday in New Orleans and the day when the local residents and tourists alike dress up and have some fun.  The costumes are sometimes lavish or simple, but always interesting!!!!  Many pictures will eventually be posted on Facebook, but most of the pictures taken during this trip have been with my old-fashioned, but trustworthy, 35.  Only ones taken with my cell phone are making their way onto this blog.

The first group that paraded down St. Charles was the Peter Fountain Half-Fast Walking Band (Peter Fountain is a famous New Orleans jazz musician) and the bead throwing began!  The group, dressed in white suits accompanied by jazz music, is one of the best-known marching krewes that parade on Mardi Gras Day.  It was so enjoyable watching comfortably from the front row among a group of people who were having fun, but were not so rowdy that they were obnoxious or knocked you off your feet while trying to catch throws (as we had experienced the prior two parades). 

King ZuluAround 10 a.m. , the Zulu parade began – a favorite of Mardi Gras Day and very fun!  The king’s float rolled first and he sat atop looking regal in his white and gold plumage.  The krewe was very generous with the throws and I managed to get two of the most coveted throws of ALL of the Mardi Gras parades – the Zulu coconut.  These are Zulu coconutshandpainted by the krewe throughout the year and are hard to come by.  I was estastic!  Following the king’s float was Spike Lee — yes, the director — who was filming the parade and those of us watching.  Apparently, the footage will be part of a sequel to his documentary, “When the Levees Broke.”

Krewe of RexAfter a brief break, the Krewe of Rex followed Zulu.  While Zulu is a fun parade, Rex is very fancy and a bit highbrow (after all, it’s run by the elite of the city).  Leading the parade were three horsemen elegantly robed in embroidered costumes of purple, gold and green, the official Mardi Gras colors.  It was Rex that first introduced the three colors: purple for justice, gold for power, and green for faith.  Other horsemen rode in trios throughout the parade.  The king’s float was first and reached us at a about 1:45 (yes, the parades are long, but time goes fast when you’re trying to catch throws!).  The identity of King Rex is usually kept secret at the time of the parade, but this year he was unmasked (but not uncostumed or unwigged, if those are even words!) the night before.  King Rex (and perhaps other krewe kings) is tutored on how to properly wave his scepter.  I wish I had gotten a picture of the back of the float to capture the length of his robe that trailed the entire length of the float.  The floats in this parade are very elegant– more along the lines of the Endymion and Bacchus parades – and followed the theme this year of “Fables of Fire and Flame.”  We hailed King Rex, caught some throws specific to the Rex krewe, and left about a half hour into the parade because there was still much to do on the agenda!

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