Today’s weather forecast for New Orleans may be calling for chilly temperatures and rain, but nothing can stop revelers from enjoying the city’s annual Mardi Gras parade. The yearly ritual, which tops off nearly two weeks of citywide celebrations, is the final hurrah before the arrival of Ash Wednesday and Lent. Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” can trace its roots back to the 1730s and is celebrated all over the world — Brazil, Germany and Italy have notable events, to name a few — but New Orleans’ shindig is perhaps best known in the U.S.
To make the best of a proper New Orleans Mardi Gras, a few helpful words of advice:
Know the New Parade Rules: Think you know everything about what to bring to today’s parade? Think again. Earlier this year, the New Orleans City Council passed a new set of rules — including no ladders or personal effects closer than 6 feet to the curb and no roping off territory via chairs and tarps if you’re in the public right of way — that are now in effect. Read up if you want to avoid getting fined.
Enjoy a Celebrity Cameo or Two: Bold face names are often invited to host parades as Kings and Queens, and this year is no exception. Hugh Laurie of “House” fame stepped in as King Bacchus on Sunday and television actors Ian Somerhalder (“Vampire Diaries”) and Norman Reedus (“The Walking Dead”) and director Quentin Tarantino have also put in appearances. In particular, the “Pulp Fiction” director led a 32-float parade on Lundi Gras.
Eat King Cake: The unofficial carb of Mardi Gras, King Cake is a rich braided bread that is topped with frosting and purple, green and gold sugars, to respectively represent justice, faith and power. While bakers usually stuff a plastic baby somewhere into the loaf to symbolize an infant Jesus, today, finding the King Cake trinket nowadays has evolved into becoming the king or queen of the party, as well as the supplier of the next year’s King Cake.
Know Your Apps: As any good reveler knows, bathrooms can be hard to come by in the Big Easy. To make life easier on your bladder, download the app AirPnp. Like its namesake collaborative housing app AirBnb, AirPnp lets users on the Mardi Gras route find nearby bathrooms they can “rent” for a small fee.
Be Eco-Friendly: After you’ve scored your legions of beads and Mardi Gras is over, be sure to recycle your beads. The necklaces are coated in a metallic paint that prohibits them from being melted down, but groups like Arc sort and clean beads so they can be used again in future parades.
Bring the Whole Family: Although Mardi Gras has a reputation for being about booze and bared breasts, the majority of the raucous behavior is contained to Bourbon Street and wholesome entertainment — including marching bands and clean krewes — can be found in Uptown, Mid-City and the Lower Garden District.
Enjoy vicariously: If you can’t make it to New Orleans this year, watch the festivities on a live ParadeCam set up at the corner of Napoleon St. and St. Charles Avenue. BYOB (bring your own beads) only.
(Photo: New Orleans Online)