A Beginner’s Guide to Parading

I realized today that at least half of my readers (which is probably about 3 people) are not from the New Orleans area and have likely never experienced a Mardi Gras parade, so for those of you unfamiliar with how things work down here, I put together a little Mardi Gras parade primer…just a few terms you might not be familiar with, as well as some things I have learned over my years of parading…some the hard way! I’m not sure I would call myself a parading expert, but I have watched a lot of them in my sixteen years here, and I do know a thing or two. So here you go…Parading 101. (Sounds better than Parading for Dummies.) 1. “Throws” refer to anything thrown by a rider in a parade. These could be beads, doubloons (my favorite), plastic cups, bracelets, stuffed animals, frisbees…you name it. If you are lucky enough to catch a strand of glass beads, a Zulu coconut, or a coveted Muses shoe, you should feel very accomplished. Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 5.18.09 PM 2. A “krewe” is simply a group of men, women, or a mix of the two, who pays a fee, purchases a selection of throws, and rides in a parade. A “superkrewe” is a very large group with equally large floats. Many krewes have long waiting lists to obtain membership. Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 5.15.50 PM 3. Parade ladders are used primarily for small children. They are rigged so that a child or several children can safely sit on top of the ladder in order to get more throws. Ladders must be six feet from the curb, although it does not seem this rule is strictly enforced. Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 5.14.00 PM 4. Bringing a bag to hold your loot is a must. If you are in a particularly good location, and you are catching more than your bag will hold, ask a rider to throw you an empty one from the float. If they have one and can hear you, they will usually oblige. Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 5.30.33 PM 5. The WDSU Parade Tracker app is a handy little tool. You simply click on the parade name, and a map will come up showing the route. A dot will show where you are located and another tracks the movement of the parade. Following the moving dot makes the waiting time a little more bearable. Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 5.04.35 PM 6. It’s time to get really excited when you see the white utility truck equipped with a vertical pole. The pole stands as high as the tallest float in the parade and ensures that a float will not hit a power line or a tree. We once waited hours for a parade to make its way to our location, only to find out that a float had, indeed, struck a power line and halted the parade. Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 5.06.06 PM 7. Nets can be helpful, especially when trying to catch a Zulu coconut. Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 5.02.00 PM 8. When watching a parade, you will either stand on the “sidewalk side” or the “neutral ground side”, which is a fancy way of saying the median. If you are trying to meet up with friends, you can tell them on which side you are standing. Or if you have a friend riding in the parade, they can tell you their location. Ex: Float #5, sidewalk side, lower level. It is important to make a note of this so you can find your rider friend and he or she can give you some good throws…if they can see you, that is. Making a sign your friend will recognize is never a bad idea! Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 5.20.56 PM   9. Keep your eyes on passing floats, especially the larger ones, at all times. Many riders will throw entire bags of beads, and if you’re not paying attention, you may take a bag to the face. Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 5.12.13 PM 10. Standing next to a really cute kid or a very attractive female will seriously hinder your chances at getting the good stuff. Relocate if possible! Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 5.34.50 PM Now, grab a bag and a net, download the app, and head on down to New Orleans. No one will even suspect you’re a newbie!

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