Since I had so much fun doing it last year, and since my float lieutenant invited me back to ride again this year, last weekend I headed back to New Orleans for the 2012 Krewe of Pgymalion Mardi Gras parade.
One thing I love about Mardi Gras is that New Orleans celebrates the holiday with the same festive intensity that the rest of the nation reserves for the Christmas season. People decorate their houses, like this one in the French Quarter, with elaborate and beautiful decorations.
If you've never been inside a float, this is what it looks like. Hooks are provided for participants to lay out beads and other goodies to throw. The rest of the throws are in the bags below, and although the hooks are nice to have, it's hard to "refill" them once the supply of throws hung from them is exhausted and the float is moving. Which means we spend most of the parade frantically tearing through our bags, pulling out throws, removing them from their plastic wrappers and tossing them to the crowds. By the time the parade is over the deck of the float is strewn knee-high with plastic wrappers, cardboard boxes, vinyl bags, broken strands of beads and empty food and beverage containers.
This year's theme was vintage board games, and each float was dedicated to a different game. Mine was the "Payday" float. It was rather windy and chilly Saturday night. I was wearing a shirt, sweater and jacket underneath my costume smock and I was still freezing cold.
Some revelers on St. Charles Avenue. It seemed to me that the crowds were a bit smaller than last year - the cooler weather probably had something to do with it - but they were still out in force. In terms of throws, beads are still the main attraction. When they're flying through the air, they are magical, priceless artifacts that spectators jostle each other for. If they hit the ground without being caught, however, they're deemed to be worthless! (And to the punk kids who ask for beads and then deliberately move out of the way to avoid catching them: you aren't being clever, you're being annoying and stupid.) Children's toys are also quite popular, as are some of the Krewe's other specialty throws like lighted medallions. The occasional Moon Pie or bag of Zapp's Potato Chips is also appreciated by the revelers. Doubloons didn't seem to be quite as popular; a handful of collectors go crazy for them, but they're too small for most people to see or catch, especially at night.
Saturday I was a participant. Sunday I was a spectator. Here, the Krewe of Carrollton rolls down Canal Street. In addition to being in and watching parades, I also ate at a few of my favorite New Orleans restaurants, spent a lot of time walking around the Quarter, and, of course, hung out on Bourbon Street.
All in all, I had a great time. However, as of right now I'm not completely sure if I'll go back for a third ride next year. As much fun as I had, and as much as I enjoy the folks on my float and the people of the Krewe in general, the fact remains that participating in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans is a costly endeavor. There's the membership fee, the cost of the throws, the cost of lodging (hotels in New Orleans gleefully jack up their prices for Mardi Gras), the cost of parking and transportation ($33 a night to park my car in the hotel garage? Seriously?), the cost of the afterparty and, of course, the cost for meals and drinks. To say I spent a total of about two grand on this year's trip would be a conservative estimate.
But, like I said, I had a wonderful time and I'm glad I got the opportunity to do this for the second year in a row.