MARDI GRAS 2012 REVIEW
Posted: February 24, 2012
So what kind of Mardi Gras was the 2012 edition of our little celebration? When you discount the weather-which was the biggest story of the year-this was clearly the best Carnival season we have enjoyed since Katrina. Not problem-free, but certainly a winner in most respects. Statistics for New Orleans and Jefferson Parish all point to record, or near-record hotel occupancy and crowds. The weather impacted three parade days, including the first one of the official parade season as rain pelted Family Gras and the parades of Oshun, Cleopatra, Excalibur, Atlas, and Eve. Rain also fell on Druids and dampened the debut parade of Nyx, which lived up to expectations, the wet weather notwithstanding. This club did not receive its parade permit until November 3. The women put on quite a show. When rain appeared a certainty for Saturday, unprecedented planning and cooperation went into a schedule that accommodated every club’s desire to parade, no matter where or when. Endymion was determined to return to Mid-City and that is exactly what they did. Captain Ed Muniz made a courageous and correct call in deciding to parade Saturday night. Mardi Gras history was made when Tucks paraded Monday, Iris on Sunday and NOMTOC on Sunday, on the East Bank. Sonny Borey, chairman of the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Committee, deserves much credit, as does the mayor, police chief, the entire NOPD and the krewe captains, who cooperated in putting together a very ambitious parade calendar. So many considerations were made as to the seniority of krewes, availability of floats, tractor drivers, etc. According to law, parades scheduled after the Thursday before Fat Tuesday have no rainout dates, unless approved by the City Council, which presumably, rubber-stamped these moves.
Among the several topics likely to be addressed by the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Committee are these: a revised rain-out schedule that includes all parades; improvements in accommodating the courts in the Gallier Hall reviewing stands (at least three krewes complained about their treatment this year); equal enforcement of laws dealing with safety equipment in each parade. (One float builder appeared to have been singled out this year.) Plans for the rescheduling of parades to accommodate the Super Bowl will be on the agenda. While krewes have known about this for years, details need to be discussed. A sub-committee is working on revising the entire Mardi Gras Ordinance, which is outdated in many respects.
- Crowds on the first weekend continue to be slim. The weather did not help.
- Captains report fewer “throw-backs” this year.
- This was a good year for celebrities in Mardi Gras parades.
- Perhaps returning some parades to Metairie Road would help interest in and the quality of parades in Jefferson Parish. St. Patrick’s Day parades work well there.
- Second weekend crowds may not have equaled 2011 but were huge nonetheless. Fat Tuesday’s March 8 date last year brought more spring breakers to town.
- Krewe captains in New Orleans seem to agree that since Katrina, crowds have been better behaved, with less nudity on the street.
- NOPD kept its word and did not rush parades through the street as was the case with several krewes in 2011.
- The Sunday before Mardi Gras has become a bigger tourist attraction than Fat Tuesday.
- With the demise of the Krewe of Grela, West Bankers were sorry to have no Fat Tuesday parade this year. Grela hopes to parade somewhere next year.
- The movement of the balls of Zulu, Bacchus, and Orpheus from one side of the Convention Center to the opposite end provided a much longer walk into the facility, but a much more open venue for the events.
- The agreement between the NOPD and the Mardi Gras Indians to cooperate during the annual march through the backstreets of New Orleans provided for a much smoother Mardi Gras for all involved.
- Not as many international journalists covered Carnival this year, although the Voice of America was in town and filmed a major story.
- Jefferson Parish is doing a good job tracking the positive impact Mardi Gras has on the area. The fifth Family Gras was deemed a success, recording upwards of 75,000 attendees, nearly equaling last year’s numbers despite the inclement weather. Crowd estimates of 800,000 to one million on Fat Tuesday may be overstated, but no doubt crowds were huge. The captain of Argus noted that along major thoroughfares parade-watchers expanded to as many 25 rows deep.
- Le Krewe D’Etat is trying to determine who plastered their floats, band vans, electrical equipment truck and some riding lieutenants’ costumes with stickers of the D’Etat logo with the heel of a red shoe poking a bleeding eye. The same scene was painted on the ground in front of the D’Etat den and on the ground at the start of the parade. These actions, no matter who perpetrated them, amount to vandalism. This type of activity has no place in Mardi Gras. Satire is one thing; this is another.
- Why wasn’t the King of Zulu on stage to greet the King of Carnival at Lundi Gras as is the custom? Reportedly it was a scheduling snafu, but many in the crowd thought it was a snub.
- There is a gentlemen’s agreement between the news media and the Rex organization not to announce the identity of the king and queen until 6 PM on Lundi Gras. For the second year in a row NOLA.com broke the embargo and revealed their identities at 5 PM.
- Two well-documented shootings took place this parade season, but was there a third one that is being hushed up? Several sources say gunfire took place during the Rex parade in the 1700 block of St. Charles Avenue on Fat Tuesday.
Because of my live television schedule, I only get to see a handful of parades in person. Among my special memories from this year were:
- seeing a frail but determined Pete Fountain performing aboard a float with his Half-Fast Walking Club on Fat Tuesday;
- enjoying the first African-American king of Endymion-showing the diversity of that krewe and all of Mardi Gras;
- watching Steve Gleason ride into the Superdome to a standing ovation during the Endymion Extravaganza, which happily returned home to the dome;
- watching the new butterfly king’s float in Rex;
- seeing the splendid toast by ex-Mayor Marc Morial to Mayor Mitch Landrieu at Gallier Hall;
- watching the LSU Band march on Fat Tuesday;
- seeing the old Comus flambeaux wagon roll in the Proteus parade.
- I did not see this, but heard about a very poignant moment at the Rex ball when “wounded warriors” (injured soldiers) were presented to a standing ovation.
- It was also wonderful to see Leah Chase honored by Zulu when the parade stopped by Dooky Chase’s restaurant for a special toast.
THESE THINGS STILL BOTHER ME
- Float riders talking on their cell phones or texting during the parade
- People bringing their dogs to the parades (except in Barkus)
- Police motorcycles with their sirens blaring inside the Super Dome and Convention Center. The noise is deafening.
- There appears to be no easy solution to the annual problem of folks roping off sections on the neutral ground. Ditto the ticketing of cars illegally parked, which makes money for the city and pisses off visitors who leave feeling abused.
- As one who takes pride in providing accurate information, it is very frustrating when last minute parade changes occur, especially when they can be avoided. There is seldom a reason for a parade route to change once announced. What do we know in February that we didn’t know in December in terms of a parade route? Rex pulled the plug on the Canal Street loop just days before their parade. There was great debate over the starting point for Cleopatra, Choctaw, Adonis and Alla, with three different West Bank intersections being printed in magazines and newspapers. The krewes pushed for a longer route, having lost the Gretna leg of their trek. Something should be done now to address these concerns for 2013. Let’s get a route, publish it, and stick with it.
The Super Bowl in New Orleans will divide the parade calendar, as was done after 9/11 when the big game was played here. Still no word on if the Pro Bowl game might also be played in New Orleans the week before and if that would also affect parades. Look for new starting points for Rex, Iris and Carrollton next year as construction on Napoleon Avenue will almost certainly render the street unavailable for parades. Unless completed, construction on Claiborne Avenue above Carrollton Avenue may affect the formation area for the truck parades. The new Hyatt Hotel and the Morial Convention Center’s new ballrooms in Hall A may become sites of several Mardi Gras balls next year.
Pawdi Gras will be relocated to Plaquemines Parish this year. According to PAWS website, (the no-kill animal shelter that sponsors the parade), it will take place Saturday, Feb 25, 2012, at Cypress Park Athletic Football Field at 455 F Edward Hebert Blvd., across from the new PAWS facility. Registration begins at 9:30 AM with the parade rolling immediately after the crowning of the king and queen at 11 AM. Source: http://www.paws4life.org/home
The Louisiana State Archives in Baton Rouge has scheduled an opening reception this Sunday, February 26, (2-4 PM) for an exhibit entitled “A History of the Washington D.C. Mardi Gras Ball Mystick Krewe of Louisianians, Inc. Call 225-922-1000 for details.
The remaining contents of the Kenner Mardi Gras Museum will be sold at auction on March 8 at 10 AM at 415 Williams Blvd., Kenner, LA 70062.