There are so many things to love about this city and many of them can only be found here in New Orleans. Topping the list of marvels seen nowhere else in the world are the Mardi Gras Indians parading on Super Sunday. HBO’s Treme exposed these amazing craftsmen to the public but there’s nothing like watching the wind in the plumes and the glint of sun on beads as they dance and chant accompanied by drum beats. Tribes come from Uptown and Downtown to peacock for the crowds and war for who’s the “prettiest.” The upside to all the recent media attention is that the parade now has an official route with police escorts and permits. The downside is that now gobs of people with a camera or iPhone or iPad or phone crowd around the Indians like paparazzi on Lindsey Lohan.
Lots of Wild Men and such had to yell for people to “make a hole” while pushing them back with decorative staffs. Big Chief Fi Yi Yi got quite agitated (and rightfully so) at being so crowded and began marking his territory – even removing his mask at some point to reprimand those crushing his path. I can only imagine how frustrated he was but I got pretty fed up with the people who were so insistent on getting their shots that they stuck their heads (and iPads and cameras, etc.) in the middle of everyone else’s shots. Real exchanges and moments were turned into photo ops in a way that felt all too familiar for someone who lived in L.A. for 18 years.
All of that said, it’s all so worth it. And I was just as greedy for good shots as anyone else, even if I used my zoom to get most of mine. I’m sure I’ve included far too many photos but I found it impossible to narrow them further. The beaded and feathered suits weigh up to 100 pounds, cost up to $5000 and take up to a year to make. For more about the history of the Indians, click here. The parade also included the Lady Buckjumpers Social Aid & Pleasure Club, the Young Men Olympian Benevolent Society and the Hot 8 and TBC brass bands.
One of the great things about the parade is running into so many friends but this was the first year I actually got to hug an Indian. A month or 2 ago at an event for NOLA for Life, I met a remarkable woman named Patrina. She’d lost a son to gun violence and turned out to be the guest speaker for the night. As we were chatting, I realized I knew who she was from Super Sunday 2011 when she masked with the Red Hawk Hunter Tribe. Carrying a staff with her son’s photo on it, she was so haunting that I took a photo of her and video of her chanting. I never forgot her. It was so wonderful seeing her face so full of joy (see photo below!).
After the parade, we stopped by the St. Patrick’s Day block party spanning from Tracey’s to Parasol’s. We got a late lunch at Parasol’s of a roast beef po-boy ($8) and an Irish Sundae – potato salad topped with roast beef gravy debris and spicy mayo ($5). Yum. There was green beer and people were decked in green costumes and face paint but the loud D.J. playing club music was a bit much for me.
New Orleans is so jam-packed with events and culture that we missed 2 other St. Patrick’s parades that Sunday. It’s hard to know which events to attend and which to miss, but the Mardi Gras Indians make it very easy to choose – even when Super Sunday (St. Joseph’s Day) lands on St. Patrick’s Day. Enjoy the video and photos. I’ve only labeled the names I knew but I welcome any comments helping me identify these amazing artists!