It’s official y’all, today I ventured down into the French Quarter and survived my first parade! Can I call myself a New Orleanian yet? Already I have too many beads than I know what to do with (and for the record, I got these beads by looking super excited and happy and waving my hands, and walking straight up to the floats and asking for them. No removal of clothing was necessary). Today was definitely an adventure.
With only a week until Halloween, the Krewe of Boo hosted their annual Halloween parade through Downtown New Orleans. It’s similar to a Mardi Gras parade, but with far less people, less craziness, and less waiting around. It was honestly even less stressful than a Disney parade, and that’s saying a lot. But coming from Disney, I know what it’s like to camp out for a spot hours in advance. When I worked audience control in Magic Kingdom, I was shocked that some people would stake out their spots up to 3 hours in advance of the parade! Like, really? There are so many other things to do in Magic Kingdom. But whatever. So, being new to New Orleans and being relatively clueless about this particular parade, I thought it would be best to arrive as early as possible. We had no idea what to expect. It was a first for both my roommate and I.
We arrived a little over an hour before the parade started and there were police cars everywhere, just waiting to direct traffic when the time was right. They were still allowing cars to drive in both directions, so that was a good sign. And looking up and down the street, we could see only small clusters of people waiting for the parade. There was still plenty of room left, and plenty of time. What do you with that kind of time on your hands? It’s New Orleans. You get yourself a drink (or two)! So armed with some delicious cups of sangria (because in New Orleans, you can get alcohol to-go), we then found ourselves a ledge to sit on from which we would have a great view of the parade. It was great for people watching. We saw a bridal party walk by (and we saw a Second Line from down the street, although whether it was the same bride and groom we have no idea), and we saw plenty of fabulous costumes ranging from adorable children to rather “out there” adult costumes. But such is Halloween.
Once the parade finally rolled up in all of its glory, the crowds (still not nearly as crowded as Disney parade crowds) scooted right up as close as they could get to the parade floats without literally being run over. The Disney Cast Member in me screamed internally. I watched people cross between parade floats nonchalantly and get so close to the floats that they could reach out and touch them! But, when in Rome, right? So I scooted up closer too. As per usual, I took far too many pictures, but I forced myself to put the camera down each time a legit float passed directly in front of us so that I could beg for whatever goodies they were throwing. I was a little disappointed because they seemed pretty stingy with the stuff they threw, but I quickly learned that in order to get stuff you either have to be a cute little kid or an aggressive adult. Needless to say, between the two of us we ended up with more beads than we actually need, 7 plastic cups, 3 keurig cups (Pumpkin flavored coffee courtesy of PJs), 2 pralines, a skull lollipop, and a bag of pretzels. All-in-all, I’d say it was a pretty successful night.
As for the parade itself, well, nothing will ever compare to Boo to You. Nothing. But the floats were gorgeous, the dancers were fun, and I think the atmosphere is really what made the whole evening. We chatted with the people around us, we shared beads when people happened to catch a whole huge handful, we joked about the people we saw and the outrageous costumes, and just had an all around good time.
This is normally the point in my blog posts where I would say something thoughtful, or talk about the culture and how celebration is just ingrained into the New Orleans lifestyle, but I honestly don’t feel like I’ve immersed myself enough in the culture here to really comment on it. I’ve been so wrapped up in schoolwork and studying that I honestly haven’t done much else here in the city. This is one of my first actual outings (I know, that sounds pretty sad), and my first venture into the French Quarter since moving here. So I guess all I can say is that I’m very glad I actually gave myself a break from the school stuff, and it was a very worthwhile outing. I think I can officially cross something off my bucket list (which doesn’t actually exist yet. It’s a work in progress). New Orleans is certainly a city unlike any other. There is a strong sense of identity here, and a strong sense of belonging. I think this city exudes pride in their culture like nowhere I’ve really been before. And for that, I’m incredibly excited to get more involved and more immersed. I think I can safely say that after this little “practice round,” I’m a little more prepared and definitely more excited for Mardi Gras season to begin.
Happy Halloween y’all!