The Saints victory parade was scheduled for win or lose, rain or shine. I even bought an umbrella (I moved here from a city where it rains 34 days a year and we just stayed in those days) and layered my clothes against the freezing temperature and worse wind chill. Mercifully, it didn’t rain.
My new friend, Heidi, and I had plans to meet but they were ever-changing as she was battling traffic for over an hour. As usual, I walked toward town, but this time I was FAR from alone. It seemed as if everyone were answering a clarion call, spilling out of their houses pulling wagons full of children, coolers full of beer and the occasional ladder-with-a-seat-on-top-with-wheels-for-dragging (sometimes with a cooler inside the seat). I met a nice man who worked at the Double Tree hotel downtown and we walked halfway together, chatting. People were parked on sidewalks, in medians, everywhere. It seemed the whole city was showing up.
I made some more insta-friends, a young couple who moved here from Los Angeles a few years ago and love it here, some people from Hammond and Napoleonville, even Alabama and Mississipi. Everyone said the same thing, “I couldn’t be this close and miss it.” Amen Dat! Even if the Saints win again next year, it won’t be for the first time. You can’t pop a cherry twice.
The parade took far longer than any of the organizers could have predicted. The route was half the normal length but the floats really took their time passing the fans. We all knew it was a once in a lifetime moment. Many, many people, including drunken college kids, kept saying how wonderful it was that they included children and students in the parade, that they would never forget this moment, the moment the Who Dat Nation showed up for their Saints.
Heidi and I did both make it to the corner of St. Charles and Canal, but on opposite sides of the street. We texted, tried to locate each others’ waving, but eventually the phone networks all shut down one by one as we jammed their circuits. I finally got a group of people to yell her name while we all waved and I stood on a cooler with a giant Brees foam finger on. Low tech did the trick.
It wasn’t a perfect night. On my corner, there was a boy with his boys and way too much alcohol and another guy with his guys and the boy and the guy started to argue. It escalated until they finally started pushing and grabbing. But, like on flights that are hijacked and the passengers take over, everyone sprung to action. The boys and guys all worked in concert to keep the fighters separated while the women (me too) stood between them yelling, “NO FIGHTING!” Everything calmed down for about 5 minutes but boys will be boys and the boy started fighting his own friend. This time, the police on horseback who’d come around to check on us last time, burst through the crowd, grabbed the boy by his hood and dragged him backward through the crowd then snatched the other friend and yanked him out. We all sang, “Nananana, nananana. Hey, hey, hey… goodbye” as they dragged them away.
There was a fight on Heidi’s corner, too, but the crowd broke it up until the police came and arrested both fighters. This town has a low tolerance for party fouls and nothing was going to dampen this night.
There were 12 floats (all donated by other Krewes), fire-trucks, marching bands and dance troupes including the 610 Stompers, New Orleans’ first all male dance troupe. After practicing for 5 months, they debuted at the Buddy D. parade last week where all the men wore drag. As they passed him, Mayor Nagin said, “You gotta love New Orleans.” We all recognized it as the birth of a new tradition.
This is one minute of them hyping the crowd and a few seconds of dancing at the end.
This was shot at the Buddy D. parade. They start really dancing about 20 seconds in.
And though it’s old news now, here’s a news item on the Buddy D. parade.
Anyway, there were at least a dozen versions of “Get Crunk,” including a xylophone version. I asked lots of people if they thought they’d ever get sick of that song. Nope.
The players were all drinking and pumped but clearly humbled. I’m not sure if we loved them more or they loved us more. It was a love fest. Many of us had cameras going and so did they. We were ALL amazed to be there and wanted to remember it forever.
There is a hierarchy to beads here and the lowest form of bead, the ones you donate to charity or make into crafts, are the short strand of small beads. Most of the beads thrown during this last minute, no budget parade were those beads and yet – people really wanted them. One of my insta-friends put one in his pocket and said, “That came from Drew Brees himself. I’m giving it to my dad.”
In this 2 minute video, Drew Brees gets Crunk with the crowd and leads the “Who Dats” (R-rated. The videographer uses a curse word at the very end)
After the parade passed us, Heidi and I met and followed the cop car at the end of the parade, so, technically, I was in the parade for about 2 blocks doing second line.
We stopped to have a drink after before trying to retrieve her car from far beyond the Superdome. The doorman was uncharacteristically (for here) gruff and aggressive. It was sort of shocking. Later, as we were leaving, Heidi ran to the restroom and in the time it took her to get back, I found out the doorman was in the airborne something something army, served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea, was stop-lossed so served 3 tours, lost many many body parts including a kidney, part of his stomach, part of a lung, etc., etc., etc., that he’s from Texas, that his family had disowned him at some point because they couldn’t watch him die in pieces anymore and that his fiancé was our our adorable blonde bartender. Everyone has a story and his was the ninth or tenth I’d heard that day, but it hit me hard to always remember that we don’t know what’s going on with someone when you expect them to be welcoming and they aren’t. I thanked him for him service. Several times.
When I got home, I turned on my TIVO of American Idol only to find it had been pushed back an hour locally for live coverage of the parade. They pushed back American Idol for local news? They didn’t even do that during the election. I went to erase it then got sucked in and watched. Sean Payton held that trophy up for over 3 hours. He made sure he shared it with all of us and said in a speech later that he wished he could give us each a piece. In front of the Mayor and a giant crowd, “We Are the Champions” played as Payton held the trophy high and the whole crowd sang together.
A fairly drunk Mayor Nagin led a toast then a round of “Who dat? WE dat!” Then it was Payton’s turn to toast. He said, “Here’s to the best Mardi Gras week in the history of this city.”
I can’t believe I’m here for all of this. And I’m so glad that this city is a place where a woman can run all over town, experience much of what it has to offer and almost never feel alone.
Early estimates said that over 200,000 people were expected to show. Phenomenal considering the city population is well under 400,000. Turns out that there were a lot more than 200,000 people at the parade, there were 800,000. That’s more than double the population of the city and the largest number for any New Orleans parade. And that’s a LOT of parades. The population of the entire New Orleans area, including all outlying areas, is only 1.1 million. I know you can do the math, but what you can’t do is know what that’s like to be in a crowd that large who are there primarily to say thank you.
Someone told me they went into a Wal-Mart of the way into town and it was empty (look out for zombies).
I’m certain that the numbers would have been at least 400,000 even if the Saints had lost so it brings me no joy to say that 11 people welcomed the Colts home. The second best team in football, mighty warriors who played hard and finished strong, and 11 people showed up. Manning could have joined our parade and gotten some respect as a native son so it’s too bad the fans didn’t show up for him there.
Turns out the Super Bowl is not only the most viewed show in American history, it beat everything in the history of Canada, too. Who knew? And a “Who Dat?” to our northern neighbors. Mom said there are Saints t-shirts for sale in her mall in Florida, nowhere near Miami. Made me wonder if you can buy Saints t-shirts everywhere now. Are people walking around North Dakota wearing t-shirts that say, “Who Dat?” That would be pretty cool if the Who Dat Nation was spreading because this is the happiest state in the union and it wouldn’t be terrible for what we have here to spread.
Drew Brees snuck into Lucy’s last night (the place I went after the Vikings game) and he finally revealed his pregame chant in this 1 minute video.
And here’s basically the whole parade in 10 minutes. If you don’t feel our victory at the end when Head Coach, Sean Payton, thrusts the Lombardi trophy in the air, I just don’t know how else to explain it.