This is my third Mardi Gras parading in Krewe of Muses as a Pussyfooter and it’s still my favorite way to tour the city. There are stately homes, gorgeous bead-covered live oaks, beautiful buildings and plenty of things to see but it’s the people that move me. Muses is one of the parades that inspires people to costume up, make posters and party like it’s 1999 – instead of a school night. The all-female Krewe is famous for the hand-crafted, elaborately glittered and fancifully decorated shoes they throw to the lucky few. This time around – a little about what it was like behind the scenes.
The floats, bands and dance troupes line up at least an hour and a half before the parade is scheduled to roll and it was pretty chilly even with the sun up so it was just-plain cold by the time we got going over an hour late. The fun part of waiting is seeing the floats, the costumes, the bands practicing – all while hanging out with your group. People who parade together agree on what’s fun even if they don’t know anything else about each other. We’ve all put in months and months of practice, worked on our uniforms, paid dues, had meetings and more because we genuinely care about participating in the largest free party in the world. For me, watching the crowd go bonkers when they see us, seeing all those smiles, taking in the crowds’ costumes, drinking in all of that joy – it’s intoxicating.
The parade took a very long time. After getting off to our late start, we inched along like we were in rush hour traffic for a couple blocks. All night, there were many stops where we’d just do our routines in place over and over. I love when the crowd dances with us during those breaks, especially the kids. Some of the Pussyfooters used step counters on their last parade. Though the route was only 8 miles, they clocked in 16-20 miles. That’s a lot of dancing.
By the time we reached Downtown and were presented at Gallier Hall by WWL’s Eric Paulsen, we were deep into the wind tunnel section of St. Charles. Parading is no picnic and the stretch there and all of Canal Street can be a true trial. The freezing wind coming off the river tested how well we’d pinned our headpieces to our wigs and our wigs to our heads. But that’s also the stretch with the most tourists. When I’m dancing for people who recognize our group, I want it to be great for our friends, neighbors and fans. When I’m dancing for tourists, I want to be part of their memory of Mardi Gras and show them what we celebrate, what we value.
The homestretch is always more sparsely populated and poorly lit. Those are the troopers, the parade-goers who go home latest and see the fewest dances and bands playing. Bless them, they were just as energetic as the rest of the route. They’re like the people who wait at the last stretch of a long race – cheering us on, inspiring us to finish strong.
At the end, the floats peel off and the various groups make their way home, hoping to make it before midnight so they can put away all their costumes for the next parade, remove their wigs and wash off the glitter and sweat. Then get up and go to work or school and come home in time to do it all again. Several of the Pussyfooters are performing at the Royal Sonesta’s Greasing of the Poles at 8am today. I’ll be parading again in Krewe of Thoth on Sunday. It’s a (much-warmer) day parade with a focus on children and the longest route of Carnival season at 11 miles. I’m guessing the step counters will be around 22-27 miles. That’s a lot of dancing. And I love it.
Enjoy the behind-the-scenes photos of the Bearded Oysters, Camel Toe Lady Steppers, Laissez Boys and other rolling groups as well as the first ever float of Mardi Gras Indian Queens.