Krewe of Endymion

Usually, the Krewe of Endymion, a super-krewe with celebrity guests and tandem floats nearly as long as a city block, rolls Saturday night before Fat Tuesday. This year, due to rain, the Ball went on as scheduled but the parade was moved to Sunday. We’d been out on the sidewalk since after 11 am, seen 4 parades already, but when the route was changed to St. Charles rather than mid-City rolling down Canal, we found the energy to end the evening with the super-krewe double whammy of Bacchus and Endymion.

I’ve often said that the key to surviving Mardi Gras parades is to protect the head, but with a motto like, “Throw ’til it hurts,”  Endymion is not for sissies. Unlike my front row spot where riders could just hand me things at the Extravaganza the night before. I was positioned on top of a bench looking for those big beads from top-tier riders. And, boy did I get them, including my best catch of the season, a big black and gold fleur de lis on a ropey-thick necklace with tassels on the ends like a curtain tie-back. If you know the one, you’re jealous right now. If you don’t, unfortunately, the photo doesn’t show the long tassels. The krewe throws, literally, millions of beads, doubloons, toys and trinkets so we all went home with full bags.

People normally line up early in the morning for the Endymion parade that night, so we St. Charles paraders were joined all day by a chunk of the Mid-City population. Named for the handsome shepherd who first observed the movement of the moon, the krewe was founded in 1966 and has ballooned to nearly 2500 riders, many of whom live out of town and come in just to be a part of Carnival.

This year’s theme was American Masters with float likenesses of everyone from Elvis to Norman Rockwell. The marshals were CNN’s Anderson CooperKelly Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos, but only Anderson seemed to have been able to stay the extra night.

The parade opened as it had at the Extravaganza, with the the puffy Endymion mascot men and Marines playing an enthusiastic version of When the Saints Go Marching In. There were stilt-walkers, feathered and sequined royalty, and a number of bands including The Yat Pack, Swampwater Revival Band, Just Doin’ It Band, Michael Hurtt and his Haunted Hearts, parade staple, Arnie’s Jazz Gents, and many more.

There were also many schools including Alabama A & M, Salmen High, New Orleans College Prep, West Jefferson and Miller McCoy, who with at least 5 parades and counting, including Thoth earlier that same day, are certainly making the most of the instruments provided them this school year by Tipitina’s Foundation. New Orleans College Prep also received instruments from Tipitina’s this year.

These parades are also a great place to meet people. In a small world moment, the family next to us were originally from NOLA but were currently living in Maryland – where I’m from. They hadn’t been to Mardi Gras in over 20 years and, while their exhausted kids napped, the husband caught strand after strand of beads and I caught (on tape) his wife and a friend reliving high school marching glory days on the curb.

With 5 parades rolling in a row and no breaks between, St. Charles was left covered in more trash than I’d ever seen before. Photos can’t begin to capture the sheer volume of missed or broken beads, discarded plastic wrappers and all manner of picnic leftovers covering the pavement.

I went home with 2 more giant bags full of beads (that made a total of 4 for the day), bruises down my arms from big beads wrapping around them after I’d snatch them from the sky, and 12 full hours of parade memories behind me. What a day!

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Filed under decorations and costumes, free events and lagniappe, Mardi Gras 2011, parade

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