Sunday was the Pussyfooters last parade of the season, Known as the “children’s parade,” the Krewe of Thoth parade has the longest route of Carnival in order to pass in front of Children’s Hospital. My phone counted 29,000 steps (14 miles). We lined up at 11am and spent our down time visiting with the 610 Stompers, the “Ordinary Men with Extraodinary Moves.” Roux La La rested nearby as the marching bands of De La Salle and John L. McClellan High Schools practiced.
This was my third time parading in 10 days. In between, I’ve been attending parades – and that does require an endurance of it’s own. But whether you’re dancing, twirling a baton, blowing on a giant tuba, walking on stilts or throwing beads from a float, parading is a labor of love that tests commitment and physical limits. It’s also the most extraordinary way to see the city, to meet wonderful people who agree with you about what’s fun and to experience Mardi Gras from the inside out.
This season, I became a whistleblower, counting out the beats to cue our dancers. It meant dancing on the outside line, eye-to-eye with the crowds. It was jarring but I ended up loving how many more smiles I got to exchange with people. At Thoth, I also danced in the front line for the first time for the last half of the parade. I remembered being a parade-goer years ago, hearing people yell, “The Pussyfooters are coming!” and seeing their “pink army” breach the trees arching over St. Charles. As they passed, I realized many were my age and older. But it never occurred to me that one day I’d be the one behind that banner, dancing down St. Charles as people screamed our name.
When I was still in the front for the tourist-lined Canal Street, I felt pride in representing our culture to all these people who came to see the biggest free party in the world. But I also felt like I was riding a roller coaster in the front row with my arms up – like every sensation was heightened. My wig was askew as more cameras than a red carpet at the Oscars (which were later that day) snapped photos. And it was already after 4pm when we hit Canal so we were beat. But I sashayed myself silly making sure they got the show they came for. It was a great way to end the season.
Though the Pussyfooters are a fascinating group of teachers, executives, attorneys, nurses and more who raise tens of thousands annually for domestic abuse victims, the biggest question women ask about our organization is how to join. Many dance troupes hold auditions, usually during late summer. The Pussyfooters use a lottery system instead. Once we determine how many spaces we’ll have available, each member in “good standing” (has met all practice, parade, monetary and service hour requirements) is allowed to nominate one new “kitten” over the age of 30. The names are put in a lottery to fill the available spaces.
Monday, I go back to attending parades and letting myself be dazzled by all the hard work, commitment and love that rolls past.