Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mardi Gras: Day Five -- THE BIG DAY!

Again, I fell behind on my Mardi Gras blog. So here is my effort to give you the rundown on what happened.

It's Tuesday, Feb. 24 -- the day known as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.

Mardi Gras is celebrated with a series of parades along the streets of New Orleans. The decorative floats slowly cruised the streets as people begged, yelled and screamed for beads or "throws." The kids seemed to make out the best as they came away with more toys than a Christmas with no recession. 
The sun was beaming down and I think it was about 70 degrees. That's the weather I went down to New Orleans for. It felt great to be out of the freezing northeast.

One of my favorite parts of Mardi Gras was the excitement of those who attended. Many were dressed up in costumes. We saw someone dressed as a memebr of popular rock group KISS. There was a couple dressed in a Batman/Batwoman costume.

We checked out the parades led by the krewes of the Zulu and Rex.

People went crazy trying to get a hand-painted coconut from the Zulu krewe, who were celebrating their 100th anniversary.

While the parades seem to be moving along without any problems, I got a call from a friend of mine asking me if I was OK. The reason being because there was a shooting along the parade route. Let's keep in mind this was in the middle of the afternoon!! I couldn't believe it! Seven people, including an infant, were hit. None seriously injured.

We were taking one of our friends to the airport. Otherwise I would have been at the scene trying to find out what happened.

After returning from the airport, it didn't seem like this shooting affected much of anything. The parades were still going on. Beads were still falling from the air. And people were still losing their voices as they screamed for "throws."

I finally got a taste of beignets, which was nothing more than a zeppole that you could buy at a fair/carnival in New Jersey/New York. I don't know what all the fuss was about. 

Well, at least my Mardi Gras experience was complete and I did just about everything a Mardi Gras first-timer is suppose to do. I think I would come back again for Mardi Gras. I would strongly encourage anyone who has never been before to check out Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It's something everyone should experience.

Until next year...

Mardi Gras: Day Four -- Lundi Gras!!

Okay, I fell behind on the blog while down in New Orleans.

The final two days were probably the best and busiest days that I was down there so that would explain not finding the time to blog about my experiences.

Let's go back to Day Four -- Monday, Feb. 23:

This was Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras.

Lundi is a french word that translates to Monday, so it makes sense.

We kicked off Lundi Gras with a festival hosted by the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club.

It was held at Woldenberg Park, located just along the Mississippi River in the French Quarter. The scene was beautiful. The only steamboat in New Orleans -- the Natchez -- cruised in the harbor behind the festival. It was a great day and the weather was gorgeous. I'm guessing somewhere in the 60s/70s with a bright sun.

People were dressed in some festive costumes and the food vendors were selling all the Louisiana cuisine that you could ask for.

They had it all crawfish, jambalaya, red beans and rice, shrimp po'boy, fried alligator wrap with crabmeat and artichoke sauce, etc. You could just smell the Cajun aroma. It was great. Of course, I had jambalaya, red beans and rice and bread pudding. It was good, it was!! :-)

The Zulu members, who wore grass skirts and black face painting, paraded and danced around the outdoor festival taking pictures with people. It was a big year for the group because they celebrated 100 years since its founding.

Several groups performed on the stage including the Rebirth Brass Band, which fuses together the sounds of jazz, funk, soul and hip-hop.

Crowds of people, which included young and old, danced to the sounds that have become synonymous with New Orleans. They even performed Levert's Casanova. The trumpets sounded great!

After leaving the festival, it was time to pick up a New Orleans dessert specialty known as King Cake.

Everyone had been making a huge fuss over this cake. What is it? Well, basically it's like a cinnamon-roll-like cake covered with icing and Mardi Gras-colored sprinkles. Some cakes can be made with various fillings. If you have a sweet tooth this is definitely the cake for you!! Just be careful not to chew or swallow the tiny plastic baby figure that is placed inside each cake. The person who gets the baby is supposed to buy the next cake. Go figure!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mardi Gras: Day Three -- Bacchus Parade

Another day. Another parade.

This time we checked out the Bacchus parade. It was filled with great floats and of course -- plenty of beads. Some of my favorite floats were King Kong, Queen Kong and Baby Kong.

We found our way to the Bacchus parade after a quick stroll down Bourbon Street. We watched the parade from our spot on St. Charles Avenue. I believe we were standing on a light pole base or something while everyone else was using ladders to gain an unfair advantage on parade-goers.

I learned the hard way that people will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to bring home the beads. I thought standing next to a nearly 80-year-old lady would work to my advantage when trying to grab beads.

However, this little old lady was tough!! A group of beads were thrown from one of the floats and this little old lady gave me the nastiest look after snagging the beads. "They're mine!" she yelled. I had grabbed the beads and so did this washed up Golden Girl reject. She proceeded to use two hands to rip the beads away from me!?!?

Did I just get beasted by this little old lady? I was hoping she was just joking, but she was dead serious!! She told me that she'd been "doing this" [going to Mardi Gras and grabbing beads] since she was 7-years-old. Okay...and? I told her this was my first time and she didn't seem to care.

She claimed that she was grabbing beads to take to "retarded kids" [note: I don't like that term] so they could sell the beads as a fundraiser. Hmmmm...I had no reason to believe that she wasn't telling the truth but some people will do anything for some beads! Really, they will!

In a related incident, another woman on Bourbon Street nearly ripped my arm off for some beads that were thrown from a balcony. The sad part is that I was actually ready to give her the beads until she started screaming at me and trying to dig her nails into my arm.

Was it really that serious? All that over some beads?? I had been giving girls my beads since I got down here. But this lady was out of line. I don't care if she was drunk!!!

Overall, despite a couple of drunk out of control bead-hungry women, the parade was a great experience....I should be well-prepared by the time the next parade rolls through.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mardi Gras: Day Two -- Endymion Parade

Yesterday, I was officially broken into Mardi Gras.

I saw my first REAL Mardi Gras. I grabbed a rack of beads that was being tossed from the decorative floats. The floats all had various themes -- the Wizard of Oz and Jack and the Beanstalk.

Other notable moments from Day two included the street dance performers. The guys who were breakdancing were great. And I can't forget the youngsters who were "tapdancing" for money. I admit I got hustled out of a couple dollars by these kids. They appeared to be tapdancing, but they were actually using crushed soda cans attached to the bottom of their sneakers. Only in New Orleans!

I also enjoyed some delicious New Orleans food -- I started out with a Shrimp Po'Boy.
Basically a fried shrimp sandwich. It was off the hook. It came with some potato salad, also great!! We at while a live jazz band played various hits -- including "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye.

We also attempted to get a New Orleans specialty --- beignets. It's a puffy square French doughnut covered in powdered sugar. It looks like something you would see at a carnival or fair. Unfortunately, the line and the wait was too long and we wanted to get to the Endymion parade. So we left. But I will have some beignets before I return.
I also found out what all the fuss was about behind the "Hurricane" and "Hand Grenade" beverages. Pretty good! :-)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mardi Gras: Day One!

My intro to Mardi Gras a good one.

I have yet to go to any parades, but that will come.

Check out some of my pics from the 'Big Easy.'

I got a little taste of Bourbon Street and hung out in Harrah's Casino. A lot of what I saw would not be appropriate for this blog, but here is a quick look at my intro to Mardi Gras 2009.
***It will get better -- stay tuned to this blog!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mardi Gras: I'm here!!!

Well, I made it New Orleans.

Got some beads on my neck and I'm ready to go.

Mardi Gras here I come!!

Check back with me. There will probably be more photos than text.

Glad to be away from the freezing cold of the Northeast.