Mardi Gras 2014 – A day of rain, costumes and life lessons

Mardi Gras walking krewe st anthony ramblers

Our parade/walking krewe rolling through the Quarter. This was taken last year or the year before. It was warm then.

Last Tuesday I was put to the test. I was pushed to the edge of my physical and emotional limits. I didn’t participate in a triathlon. Or even host a dinner party (we all know how trying that can be). I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Yep. Three fun filled days in the Crescent City.

I learned some things during those three days and I’d like to share them with you now.

But before I do that, I must dispel some of the New Orleans Mardi Gras myths.

1. You need to show some skin to get beads. I’m not sure why this myth continues to be perpetuated, but it is the furthest thing from the truth, unless you’re on Bourbon Street. But even then you can score beads without flashing anyone. In reality, you’ll get way more goodies during the family friendly parades that run throughout the city. We’ve gotten so many beads we’ve left bags of them behind and I’ve never lifted my shirt once.

There, I just had to get that off my chest (hehe).

2. Mardi Gras is an adults only event. This is totally untrue. Kids line the streets of the parade routes and dress in costume just like the adults. And you’re actually more likely to get good beads and stuffed animals if you have kids with you. No one can resist their cute little faces.

Mardi Gras costume aquatic family

A lovely aquatic family out for a stroll.

You might wonder why you would need so many beads and stuffed animals. I once wondered the same thing, but now I know the answer: for your Mardi Gras tree, of course.

mardi gras bead christmas tree

We left our Christmas tree up and covered it with Mardi Gras beads and some of our best catches. It’s quite festive.

 mardi gras plush hermes

Our plush Hermes H that we caught last year.

mardi gras zulu coconut

This is a prized possession: the Zulu coconut. It’s not a real coconut, but it’s still really cool.

mardi gras muses parade oyster

I was handed this during the Muses parade last year. It says “the world is your oyster.” Another a prized possession.

3. It’s always warm in the South. Ha! The South can be colder than Denver, Colorado. Nobody wants to believe me when I say such things, but it’s true. Denver is dry and has more sunshine. A sunny 45-50F day and you might be outside in a tee shirt (well maybe not me, I’m a bit of a wimp). In New Orleans, I’m usually wearing my winter coat, with a sweater and long underwear.

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So, this year we booked a last minute trip to New Orleans and then fretted about our costumes. Costumes? Yes, costumes. And not just any old costumes. I mean costumes. You have to compete with this paper mache frog and a crawfish boil:

mardi gras costume frog monteleone

I love how the frog is just sitting there like it’s totally normal for a frog to be at the bar.

mardi gras costume zapps monteleone

Yes, that is a dress made out of chip bags.

mardi gras costume tomb

A very creative New Orleans tombstone/crypt.

mardi gras costume crawfish boil

This crawfish was part of a crawfish boil and was wheeled around the city in a giant pot. The dog is not part of the boil. He was dressed as astronaut and either got tired or there were too many people around so he ended up in the pot too.

mardi gras costumes pompa loompa

A gaggle of Oompa Loompas.

mardi gras costume queen of hearts

My cousin Lindsay and her fiancé dressed as the Queen of Hearts and Mad Hatter. They found another queen so we had to snap a picture.

mardi gras walking krewe st anthony ramblers

Parade members stopping for a break in the French Quarter.

So, we decided to recycle our costumes from two years ago and went as Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit, but I needed something to embellish my costume. I couldn’t wear the exact same thing I’d worn two years ago. It would be like wearing the same dress to the Oscars twice. Insanity, right?

mardi gras costume alice in wonderland

Our versions of Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit.

This is where I will share what I’ve learned.

Lesson #1 – Even though I’m usually right, every now and then my husband is right.

So, to embellish my costume, I decide I want a sign. After a little prodding, my husband very begrudgingly builds it and I decorate it (because no one wants a bland sign).

Over and over he repeats that he “will not carry the sign.” He insists that he will end up holding it, and he refuses to.

I, of course, roll my eyes while he isn’t looking. Does he really think I’m so lazy that I can’t carry a 4 lb sign? That I will become tired of holding the masterpiece I’d worked so hard on?

Well, he is wrong. I am going to dance with the sign and wave it proudly over my head. It will be in all of our pictures. He is going to be soooooo thankful I made that sign!

But there is one problem. It’s freezing outside.

I gaze sadly out our hotel window at 9:00 in the morning and the streets are deserted. I slide an extra layer of leggings over my pantyhose and wear two long sleeve shirts under my dress.

We step out of the hotel and immediately go back for my coat. Then, three blocks later we buy umbrellas.

Now I’m carrying my sign and the umbrella.

Crap. My fingers are already freezing and it’s annoying having to hold two long objects over my head. (Can you see where this is going?)

We make it to Frenchman street and everyone is packed inside the bars. Usually there are people partying in the streets. But not today. We meet these nice folks, though, also dressed as Alice in Wonderland.

mardi gras costume white rabbit

About an hour later our parade arrives. Oh, yeah. That’s the other thing.  We’ll be marching with the St. Anthony Ramblers. Outside. For like 4 hours.

By that time my husband has relieved me of the sign and fastened it to his belt. He says, “I told you so” only a few dozen times. Sadly, my beautiful sign is only in one picture. And no one was thankful I’d made it.

mardi gras costumes alice in wonderland

Lesson #2 – You can rain on my parade. We march from the Marigny to the French Quarter with the brass band playing. We dance. We laugh. Occasionally, we huddle inside for warmth. We see people we have’t seen in over two years and we make new friends.

It becomes what Mardi Gras always has been for me: A chance to live in the moment. A chance to forget everything and not think about what you have to do a week from now or even an hour from now. A chance to just be happy and celebrate.

mardi gras revelers

Like this. Look at the joy on these faces.

Soon there is ice forming on my husband’s cup, surrounding his fingers. And my toes are completely numb.

In case you’re wondering it was 39 F. The record low for Fat Tuesday was 38 F, set back in 1899.

But we came out and celebrated all the same. We didn’t let the cold and rain stop us.

Lesson #3 – But next time, I will pack a warmer costume just in case. Like a yeti, or an eskimo or lumberjack.

Lesson #4 – Remember to always look on the bright side. Moving forward, it’s likely that we’ll never have weather this cold and icky again. So, it can only get better from here.

Lesson #5 – This will be one of those days we always remember. It’s like when you’ve got this vision of the perfect day and then things don’t turn out like you planned, but now you’ll always remember the day you froze on Mardi Gras. See how I can spin things so positively!

P.S. This is what the sign looked like at the end of the day.

DSC06039

See the broken spot on the bottom. That’s where the handle used to be attached to the sign.

He always had it out for that sign.

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