I’m what some call a “crafter.” As some of you readers know, I often crochet, knit, paint, make soap, jewelry and ornaments. In New Orleans, LOTS of people are crafters, even if only when it comes to costumes for Mardi Gras Day. This city is filled with creativity, imagination and skilled hands. But, the Mardi Gras Indians take crafting to a whole new level. They work on their suits for a year, investing up to $5000 on the exquisite plumes and beads that become their storytelling suits. Pictures are worth thousands of words when it comes to the Indians, but for more about the history of the Indians, click here.
Every year, on Super Sunday (St. Joseph’s), the Indians take to the streets to show off their labors. The technicolor feathers and elaborately beaded tableaus are only part of the celebration. The parade starts in A.L. Davis Park. Having (finally) reached a truce with the police, their was a definite “presence.” Photos are officially welcome now, but this has led to some fairly paparazzi-like swarms around the Indians.
It’s becoming commonplace for me to run into people I know at parades, but I was surprised to find myself standing right next to Renee from Evergreen Plantation. I’d visited the site on Martin Luther King Day while researching for my upcoming part in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Renee was a wealth of knowledge when guiding our tour and supplied my favorite fun factoid when she shared that she’d already been working at the estate for a couple of years when she found out that her own 11-generations-ago grandfather had designed the home. Running into her at the parade was its own tiny miracle in that Renee doesn’t live in the city, the parade enjoys casual attendance and the route is miles long, yet there she was right in front of me.
The parade opened with brass bands including city favorites, Hot 8 and Stooges. The Sportsmans Ladies, Single Men, Junior Buckjumpers, Lady Buckjumpers and the Young Men Olympian Benevolent Associations danced by in their sharp matching outfits.
Monk Boudreaux then led the various tribes. I’ve tried a few times to capture the gravitas and grandeur of the parade, the chanting of the many Indian percussion-only bands, the mock battles and the overwhelming beauty of it all. I had some success last year and the year before, but this year, I give in. Just enjoy the video and photos and know that it’s all so much more amazing when you can actually feel the drumbeats and the plumes tickling your skin as they pass, when you can see the details up close as well as the whole panorama of “pretty.”