After attending over 20 parades during the Carnival season, I was ready for a break, but with Mardi Gras ending so late this year, we only had 3 days before the St. Patrick’s festivities began. The Irish Channel Parade is characterized mostly by drunken black-suited men carrying what look like umbrellas but are, in fact, silk flowers to be exchanged for kisses. The other distinguishing characteristic is, in addition to the beads, toys and cups thrown at Mardi Gras parades, the Irish throw cabbage, potatoes, carrots, oodles of noodles, peppers, cucumbers, Lucky Charms and Irish Spring soap. The idea is that after the parade, you would go home and turn most of those ingredients into a cabbage stew. Some items, like cucumbers, don’t go in soup, the guys just like handing them out. For more history of the parade and its organizers, the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club, click here.
My cousin, a flight attendant, had an overnight layover in town. She and a friend joined us on the neutral ground (as opposed to sidewalk side) just as the parade began to roll up Jackson. We hadn’t seen each other in years and had plenty to catch up on but I warned her that for the next hour or two, remember rule #1, Protect the Head! Increasingly important as we moved from beads to cabbage.
Farhad Grotto Bug Patrol opened the parade followed by the Muggivan School of Irish Dance and St. Alphonsus Catholic School. The Marines got everyone moving followed by the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, Pocket Aces Brass Band and the always smooth Yat Pack.
Founded in 1836, the Ancient Order of Hibernians marchers led the way for the visiting law officers from other cities including D.C., Baltimore and Boston. It always cracks me up to see the officers carrying green koozies or wearing hands-free beer necklaces, enjoying drinking in public.
Children were very well taken care of at this parade with lots and lots of toys and stuffed animals for each little one in the crowd. There were women in the parade too, the Daughters of Lir, giving kisses for beads. Other women rode floats and tossed throws. There was a rolling bar, the Rogue’s Lair from the Celtic Highlanders, with a pretty bartender serving. And there were family floats, including a float full of people related to one of our crew.
We left with bags full of beads and groceries and spent the rest of the evening in the French Quarter, eating a tasty supper with something for everyone at Coops and beignets at Cafe du Monde, always heaven in my mouth. It was pretty much a perfect day where it felt like the town had thrown a parade just for my cousin.
Later, I tried making my first cabbage stew and cole slaw. They both came out pretty good and all the better because I’d caught the ingredients at a parade. Beat that Whole Foods.