Easter in New Orleans means many things and, as usual, we had to miss events like the 100th running of the Louisiana Derby and the Historic French Quarter Parade, in order to make our events starting with brunch at the Red Fish Grill. On our way down Bourbon Street, we passed the line for the first seating at Galatoire’s. I love all the men in their seersucker suits and straw hats and the women in floral dresses with fancy Easter bonnets – just like when my mom was a girl. At the front of the line were two folding chairs holding tattered men who’d clearly been paid to hold a place in line – a tradition nearly as long as the line.
Red Fish Grill had a more mixed crowd with lots of children including baby girls dressed like balls of cotton candy. The sprawling buffet ($46 – book in advance) included an amazing shrimp and grits, some of the best whipped sweet potatoes I’ve ever had and a chocolate mousse cup I had to get a second of, but the highlight was the seafood. The fruits of the sea included oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, a crawfish boil complete with corn and potatoes and all the crab claws I could eat (and eat and eat). There was even a buffet just for the kids with a build-your-own ice cream bar. Best of all, they had an egg dying station that transported me back to my youth.
But my favorite thing about the entire experience was when the bunny and the Peep guy came around the tables – picture a bad-ass version of Sammy Davis, Jr. in a bright yellow chick outfit. Though the bunny was silent, Peep guy (I heard someone say his name was Ike) was personality plus. You could tell which part of the room he was in by which table was laughing hysterically.
As we were finishing our meal, the floats for the upcoming 30th annual Chris Owens French Quarter Easter Parade lined up on Bourbon. Chris Owens has been a club owner, burlesque dancer and NOLA icon since the ’60’s. Like Angelyne in Los Angeles, she has a fondness for Barbie and never hides her light under a bushel. Her annual parade keeps growing as do the crowds who attend. Riders are as varied as the “I’m a Dancer” Dance Club and a float of people from All Star Electric. Farhad Grotto Bug Patrol got things moving and DancingMan504 led the way with the Storyville Stompers Brass Band. There were plenty of adorable kids including the dance troupes from Shine Tyme, Sassy Steppers and Uniques School of Dance and the talented marching band from Sophie B. Wright. Throws included pastel plastic eggs filled with candy, stuffed animals and hula hoops! (I squealed like a 5 year old when we got one)
But the best part of Easter in NOLA is definitely the hats. People here love any excuse to costume up and the opportunity to create a bonnet tableau is irresistible to many. I saw an elaborate ship hat, a sequin airplane hat and as many variations of baskets of goodies, floral bouquets and bunny stories as you can possible imagine. More than you can imagine so I’ve included some photos below.
Next up was the 14th annual Gay Easter Parade with Grand Marshals Tommy Elias and Starr Daniels. The first time I saw this parade, I couldn’t help but notice that the men-in-drag in the opening carriages looked a lot like the retired exotic dancers of Chris Owens parade and the “ladies who lunch” of the Historic French Quarter Parade – only with more make-up. This year, the parade opened with our beloved Ashley the Traffic Tranny strutting her way down the street in thigh-high white stiletto boots, Third Line Brass Band in tow. Paraders included New Orleans Radical Faeries, The Big Easy Sisters, Mystic Krewe Lords of Leather, Ms. Golden Lantern 2010 Rikki Redd and Pair-O-Dice.
Many LGBT parades feature throws with more adult themes but this year’s Easter parade was family-friendly with stuffed animals and toys for the kids. The parade benefits the NO/AIDS Task Force Food For Friends program and has raised over over $170,000 for charity since its inception. 30 carriages, wagons and trolleys, over a dozen trucks and cars and 3 walking groups featured some of the most imaginative and enormous hats I’ve seen.
As a kid, I remember my mom singing, “In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it, you’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade!” It would be impossible to say who was the “grandest lady” of the day, but I did find a favorite – a pretty redhead in a bright hot pink hoop-skirted dress with a giant decorated egg perched on her head with a bunny nestled inside like those hollow sugar eggs with the Easter tableaus inside. The effect was like Scarlett O’Hara (or Django Unchained‘s Lara Lee) on LSD – and totally fabulous. Enjoy finding your favorites in the videos and photos!
We finished our day with more great food from Coop’s, the worst kept secret in NOLA. I had an amazing black drum smothered in a mound of crabmeat and dripping with butter. Though we had to make room for poorly-timed work obligations, Easter celebrations in NOLA are for parades and feasting and we did plenty of both.