Though the last 2 weeks have been a very big adventure, I’ll admit I’ve missed the simple joy of hanging out with neighbors, dancing to marching bands and collecting a haul of plastic treasure. After a break to host the Super Bowl, Carnival began again last night and the city turned out despite the constant rain. First up was Krewe of Ancient Druids. Founded in 1998, the krewe honors the Celtic priests who acted as mediators between the people and their gods and nature. Their krewe is fairly small with never more than 200 members and secrecy shrouds their membership.
Marching bands from Chalmette, Helen Cox and Sophie B. Wright high schools joined the Superstar Steppers and adult bands rolling in faux streetcars. Their best throws include doubloons and medallion necklaces – I got one of each!
Until last year, Druids was the only parade that would roll Wednesday but the Krewe of Nyx changed all that. I was in Los Angeles preparing for Django Unchained when the parade debuted but I heard it rivaled the wildly popular Krewe of Muses, another all-female parade, with decorated purses in lieu of Muses’ shoes. More than 500 riders celebrated the Goddess of Night that year and it seemed their numbers swelled this year.
The rain really picked up during the short break between Druids and Nyx, but paraders and parade-goers were mostly undaunted. Nyx was at least as good as the rumors with dance troupes like the Sirens, Muff-A-Lottas, 610 Stompers, Pussyfooters, Gold Dusters and Cherry Bombs as well as marching bands from St. Augustine, O. Perry Walker, Warren Easton, L.B. Landry and John McDonogh. The floats were surprisingly large and many featured iconic curvy women. But the real attraction were the plentiful and fanciful throws.
Before moving here, I never thought about who pays for Mardi Gras. Turns out it’s the riders in the various krewes who take on all of the expenses from floats and throws to security and clean-up. These NOLA citizens provide the city with the longest and largest party in the U.S. every year. Most wear masks concealing the identity of these gift-givers. Annual dues can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars and I can only hope they feel as good throwing this giant shindig as I feel attending.
This year’s Krewe of Nyx Queen was Fleurty Girl‘s Lauren Thom. At 33, she is more than the owner of 4 fun boutiques and a successful online business, she’s a warrior for the Who Dat Nation. A single mother of 3 who famously started her chain of stores with a $1900 tax return in 2009, she took on the NFL when they tried to block retailers from using the phrase “Who Dat” and won! Conspiracy theorists posit that this is when Goodell’s witch hunt against the Saints began but what is a goddess without a formidable foe? In any case, I feel she was the perfect choice to represent the strength and charm of NOLA women.
For those of you who don’t have giant floats rolling down your streets distributing beads and toys, maybe you can’t understand why babies and Maw Maws would endure the inclement weather. One of the women near me exclaimed, “What are we doing out here in the rain?” but her purple-green-gold tinsel wig and neck full of beads answered her own question. My favorite quote is actually from songstress Margie Perez who overheard a “big dude” running past exclaiming, “I got a purse!!!!”
For me, that’s worth rain-soaked clothes any day of the week.
Come see me tomorrow at the annual “greasing of the Poles” at Royal Sonesta! Click for details.