2011 was another successful Mardi Gras season for the Smith family. We all got what we wanted and expected, all though the weather certainly could have cooperated a bit more. Cheetah had his eyes set on catching as many stuffed animals as possible, Tarzan was in search for the perfect ‘Mardi Gras ‘ frozen beverage, and I wanted to jump and scream as much as possible. A lot of people feel that NOLA is where it all started but it was the smaller more rural towns where Mardi Gras flourished and where we all still know how to party just as rowdy as Bourbon Street without all the tourists. This is not the place to find the whole back story of Mardi Gras (but you can find it here), this is just my account of a holiday that I have always viewed as the best part of every calendar year.
I have always loved Mardi Gras but it wasn’t until this year that I was able to actually discover what the ‘draw’ really was for me: as a child it’s easy to understand, you get to be as loud as possible and people will throw you all kinds of awesome junk while wearing the coolest get-ups, as a late teen and young adult visions of binge drinking and irresponsibility dance in your head, and as adult I have found that aminimitiy is a rare gift. Here is a ’religiously based’ holiday where you are supposed to give into your urges; you partake in deliciously rich foods, drink perfectly concocted beverages, try each and every kind of king cake in town (my favorite is Keller’s), and act a fool in public…all while wearing a mask. No wonder DROVES of people make the annual journey to the ‘party capital’?
You arrive at the parade route HOURS beforehand to ensure that you get a great spot, as close as you can get to the floats. You make signs, wear bright colors, find the perfect mask for the year, pack an extra bag for all your loot, and make sure you remember your ‘to-go cup’. You stand beside other parade goers waiting for the 1st sounds of sirens to signal the start of the parade and once it begins the energy of the crowd and the members of the Crew’s just takes over. You are jumping up and down, screaming, laughing, and juking it (dancing) along with each band that passes. When you finally see the fire truck you start wagering the decision to rush to the end of the route to catch the parade one more time. The experience is like no other.
The time of year beckons the natives to give in and let it out; blow off some steam and no one has to know it’s YOU. What a great way to kick off the reflective season of lent; tired, hung-over, and stuffed like a link of boudin. I want to personally invite you to make the pilgrimage to Cajun Country next year, you will NOT be disappointed. My advice would be to steer clear of NOLA and head out to some of the tamer, less touristy parts of Louisiana; be prepared for any type of weather, bring your own chair, and don’t forget your mask.