Each Carnival I approach parade routes with glee and caution. As such please find the below pointers, tips, alerts, and otherwise whacks to the back of heads as the 2012 Mardi Gras season kicks off. We all want to embrace the revelry, so let’s all do our best to help each other enjoy, shall we? Let’s!
1) Don’t park your car on the neutral ground. It may not be signed and everyone else may be doing it, but you – and they – will all get tickets. I see it every year. And no matter how designated your driver is, not a one of you should be behind the wheel. Ride your bike, people!
2) Whatever NOPD asks you to do, the answer is always “Yes, officer.” Bear in mind meter maids and cops and two very different entities. Meter maids will just ticket you; there is little if any warning. They’ve even been known to ticket NOPD; I’ve seen it happen. NOPD on the other hand are working exceptionally hard at maintaining the peace and progress of parties unparalleled. Some may say they actually excel at crowd control. So stay out of their way. My guess is they will only ask you once, because frankly they don’t care. They have a job to do, and if your ladder may be to close to the street (for example), move it. And write a column about it later.
3) Day parades v. night parades. Weekend night parades are easily more crowded and (ahem) more adult than the daytime ones. Lundi Gras night however tends to be more relaxed as the weekend crowd has long disbanded (lightweights) and scuttled back home to their lives in wherever. So for the family minded, choose daytime parades. Your kids *might enjoy the night parades, but historically they can run late, be chilly, plus there’s always the added possibility of drunken mayhem. I have seen blood drawn at parades. It’s not pretty. Put your kids’ priorities first.
4) A ladder is not real estate. None of the neutral ground is. The median namesake has no owner, hence “neutral.” You want a spot to hang with your friends? Great. Maintain it. With your own actual physical presence. None of this roping off or placing endless empty chairs “saving” a spot. Abandon it and expect to lose it. This is the code.
5) Be generous. It’s a lot of fun to catch throws. It’s more fun to give most of your take to the 6 year old next to you.
6) Pace yourself. I can’t stress this one enough. Take it easy. This is a party, not your last day on earth. I’ve seen ambulances interrupt parades for suspected overdoses and other likely toxic ingestions. Don’t go crazy and watch out for your people.
7) Have an emergency plan. It pains me to write this one, but really, do have a plan in place. Shootings have been known to take place at parades, and when that happens it can turn into absolute mayhem. I’ve had the good fortune of never having witnessed or be near such an event. And I’ll be just fine if I never do. Again, don’t go crazy, and watch out for your people. Have a pre-determined meeting place in the event of an emergency.
8) Mardi Gras ain’t green – yet. Last year I caught a flat on my bike ride home down St Charles Ave on Mardi Gras eve, the victim of goodness knows what I was rolling rubber over – glass shards, bits of metal, and on. The aftermath boasts waste of epic proportions, but you can make a difference. Take your garbage home with you! Practice what you preach, people! Somehow the masses that might recycle at home leave it all on the tracks during Carnival.
9) Language. This ties a little into 3) but watch your mouth. Parades are not designed for you to exercise prolific profanity. Time and place, people, time and place.
10) Safety first. Stand back and enjoy the show. Don’t rush the floats. These are massive pieces that will crush you. Most throws have little if any value. Is it really worth risking life and limb? No. Be practical and have fun; it’s not a competition.
On that note, I hope everyone has a fantastic time this year. Having Mardi Gras on the 21st this year lends a long and leisurely sense to the chaos. Next year when we host (- and play in – and win -) the Super Bowl it’s going to be nuts with the Super Bowl falling on 2/3/13 followed up quickly with Mardi Gras day 2/12/13. Get your ticket in your hand!
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and the Du Mois gallery on Freret Street and father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also writes an occasional real-estate blog at villererealty.com and shares his family’s adventures via pedicab on Facebook and Twitter.