After postponing a week for weather, it was 80 and sunny for Super Sunday, one of my favorite days of the years. Staggeringly beautiful and steeped in culture and history, the Mardi Gras Indians fill the streets on Super Sunday wearing plumed and beaded suits they spent the year carefully designing and crafting, bead by bead. We wandered past Baby Dolls dancing and families helping their Indians dress before selecting a burger and sausage combo and following the proprietor to a nearby truck making giant adult sno-balls. Ours tasted of coconut rum and was my first of the season and first-ever taste of a spiked sno-ball.
The Original N. O. Lady Buckjumpers got the parade rolling and the first wave of vibrantly-colored dazzling suits roamed past as drums beat. I am always stunned that these mechanics, cable guys and other “regular joe’s” imagine and execute the work-of-art suits, spending thousands getting each suit engineered, ribboned, beaded, sequined and feathered. I’ve compared them to rare flowers that bloom once a year and written about the origins of the Mardi Gras Indians and the battle for their right to parade.
This year’s highlight was stumbling onto a battle just as it was starting. Only a few dozen of us witnessed the confrontation of the 2 tribes on a side street. The tribes faced off with their bands behind them. Easily inspiring some of my favorite photos of the day, one tribe was in Caribbean pinks and parrot colors, the other in royal blue. We watched as the tribe members confronted each other, took each other in, and allowed the other to pass. I’ve seen mostly-staged battles before but this one was entirely organic, and so few of us were lucky enough to have caught it.
My other favorite moment was watching 2 little girls being groomed as warriors. There were so many more children this year. As I watched a woman pass who I’d been photographing in parades since she was a kid, I realized how happy I am to see more and younger children every year. I watched as several of the dads and neighbors coached the 2 little pink Indians in standing like warriors, balling their tiny fists and making intense faces. Moments later, I caught a photo of one of the warriors-in-training confronting an elder of another tribe and smacking her tambourine at him defiantly.
Some of the amazing tribes we saw today were the Golden Eagles, Mohawk Hunters and Algiers Warriors. As usual, Big Chief Fi Ya Ya used natural items like shells and raffia. Keep scrolling to see the battle and the tiny warriors!