Jun 102013
 

When the Krewe of Freret rolls in 2014, New Orleanians will see the return of a parading group that has been absent from the Uptown route since the 1990s. What they may not see, however, is strands of ubiquitous plastic Mardi Gras beads.

While the krewe hasn’t come to a final decision, co-captain Bobby Hjortsberg told members of The New Freret business and property owners association on Monday that they are strongly considering a ban on plastic beads, instead favoring more unique, locally-made (and locally-purchased) throws that people may find more desirable. The beads are made in China and have little benefit to the economy of New Orleans, Hjortsberg said, and many local parade-goers don’t even bother to pick them up or take them home any more.

“We just don’t want to be part of more waste,” Hjortsberg said. “Because we’re the new krewe and we’re going to do things differently, this is one way we’re going to do it.”

Technically, the Krewe of Freret isn’t exactly new, Hjortsberg explained — its older incarnation stopped parading in the mid-1990s, and the current version began being organized in 2011. But when the City Council returns it to the parade schedule for 2014, it will be only the fourth addition to the lineup since the 1990s, following Orpheus, Muses and the 2012 debut of the Krewe of Nyx.

“It was a dream three years ago, and now it’s real,” Hjortsberg said. “It’s happening.”

Dropping the plastic beads may shock some parade-goers, but it won’t be the first parade to do so. Upstart groups like Krewe du Vieux and Chewbacchus already heavily favor hand-made throws over beads, but a better analogue may be this Halloween’s Krewe of Boo, which has already announced a plan to only throw Louisiana-made products.

Krewe of Boo organizer Brian Kern already envisioned that the trend might spread — a prediction echoed by Tulane geographer Richard Campanella — and Freret may take more than just that idea from Boo. Hjortsberg said the krewe is currently considering renting Boo’s floats and repurposing them for their own theme while they are still raising money for their first custom floats, in hopes that the procession will still be new to locals who miss the Halloween parade.

One replacement for beads, Hjortsberg suggested, is that the krewe could partner with Freret businesses to create items emblazoned with their logos, such as key chains or bottle openers, that might become keepsakes. The idea of throws more memorable than beads resonated with the association members.

“Nobody really wants them anyway,” said Kellie Grengs, an association board member (and the 2012 queen of the Krewe of Freret’s inaugural ball) said of the beads. “When you go to parades, they’re all over the ground.”

While the change may plant the seeds of change in Carnival season, it’s unlikely to be noticable on the route. The krewe is tentatively set to roll at 4 p.m. Feb. 22, the Saturday of the first weekend — what could become the busiest day of the season on the Uptown route. The krewes of Pontchartrain and Choctaw will roll at 2 p.m., and Freret will be followed by the Knights of Sparta and the Krewe of Pygmalion that evening, suggesting that ample amounts of plastic beads will still remain for the street sweepers at the end of the night.

To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.

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  • Owen Courrèges

    It’ll only work if the volume of throws is at least vaguely comparable. If each time a float passes it only distributes a handful of throws, most parade patrons won’t get anything.

    • Angie Peckham

      My thoughts exactly.

    • Danielle Dyar

      I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think we really need the same
      volume of throws–we’ve all seen the thousands of beads left untouched,
      littering up our streets, after each major parade. But since next to
      nothing is cheaper than the standard, Chinese-made beads, it’s going to
      take a change in the way that people think about what a Mardi Gras throw
      is. Sure, you might not get a handful of throws from each passing
      float, but maybe you will get something you can cherish or reuse,
      something that was made in Louisiana and benefits our economy–instead
      of something we toss into a landfill after a few weeks.. This is a huge
      environmental concern, and I think we’ve got to let go of these
      conventional ideas of Mardi Gras throws.

      • Cheyenne Buchanan

        I completely agree with Danielle, what is the poor of having more useless items clogging our streets and landfills? No to mention the most exciting and coveted throws are the rare ones that are handcrafted like muses shoes and Zulu coconuts!

      • Owen Courrèges

        Danielle,

        I agree that some parades go overboard and too many throws just wind up in the street, but if we went from the current amount of throws to, say, 5-10% of that (which strikes me as quite possible given the added labor and expense) then a lot of people wind up feeling very left out. The increased competition for throws could also cause acrimony. I already have already heard of fights breaking out over “prized throws,” and I imagine it would be worse if throws in general were rare.

        Plus, I frankly just don’t like the idea of having to fight for throws and frequently coming out empty-handed even after an entire parade passes. That will make the parades a great deal less enjoyable for me.

  • Betty mills

    They would have to get it in bulk. But I think it’s a great idea. Although the plastic beads can be used as sling shot ammo. Especially the big ones.

  • QuienesSomos

    Sounds like the do-gooder “captains” are making a decision for themselves not necessarily by the actual members. My experienced 8 Ball says – carnival orgs that are run like this last not so long OR there is a quick coup d’etat. One of the reasons non-yats / other cities have a hard time creating a successful carnival is their failure to understand our chill attitude regarding others attitudes. ie – you don’t want plastic beads? Cool! See you at the parade with my sacks full of plastic beads – we’re all happy.

    • “newbie”

      I love how you can have a “chill attitude” yet can be so judgmental regarding “do-gooder captains”…

  • “newbie”

    I love it! I hope they go ahead with the bead ban. So what if people get a little less. We can all do with a little less and treasure what we get a little more!

  • Miles Swanson

    I am very much in support of greening Mardi Gras, but also have to be wary of commercializing throws which what appears to be happening with the Halloween parade throws. It’s great to support local business but I don’t think Mardi Gras should about advertising for those businesses through throws

    • Cheyenne Buchanan

      There are certain regulations in place that prohibit the throwing of promotional items during the Mardi Gras season. This will keep throws limited to actual products that parade goers want to catch. Long live the bead ban!

      • Miles Swanson

        Nola.com reported that Krewe of boo will be throwing aunt Sally pralines, fluerty girl tshirts, Elmer chee wees

        • Cheyenne Buchanan

          Those are all local products…

    • Owen Courrèges

      Mile,

      Mardi Gras doubloons started as promotional items. Hell, I still have a doubloon from Popeye’s from when I was wee that offers a “Free Breakfast.” Advertising through Mardi Gras isn’t an aberration, even if newer throws are restricted in that regard. Ultimately, I don’t see any problem with commercializing throws if it decreases cost and reduces waste.

  • Miles Swanson

    I am very much in support of greening Mardi Gras, but also have to be wary of commercializing throws which what appears to be happening with the Halloween parade throws. It’s great to support local business but I don’t think Mardi Gras should be about advertising for those businesses through throws

    • Gene Rice

      Mardi Gras should be a big shot on the arm of the NOLA economy! The use of locally made throws should be a big part of this. Recycled material that is non toxic is a smart way to go. Some traditions like plastic beads made in China should end now. Power to the Parade!

      • Miles Swanson

        Using locally made and unique throws is great, but according to the recent nola.com article re krewe of boo..they would be throwing aunt sally’s pralines, zydeco fruit, fluerty girl tshirts and sucre candy. I love all of these businesses, but Mardi Gras floats and throws should not be a place for advertisements. If Boo is going to throw krewe of candy boo candy is made by sucre or their own tshirts printed by fluerty girl that’s another thing, but that’s not how i read it

        • Cheyenne Buchanan

          If krewe’s have the money local businesses would be willing to personalize their packaging. Those items are actual, usable goods and purpose is to promote local business, not advance advertising and commercialism. Having a Sucré label is no different than having a “Beads by the Dozen” or “Made in China” label obviously emblazoned or stickered on the products. The benefits of eliminating wasted beads that fill our streets and landfills and leach toxins, saving the tons of oil used to produce the beads (equivalent to BP oil spill) and the oil used to ship them here and package them, as well as keeping millions of dollars here at home, and encouraging participation and creativity from the community far outweigh any false assumptions of the commercialization of Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, we live in a society that follows brand recognition, people only jump on the bandwagon when they see something they recognize and feel comfortable with. That may be what it initially takes to get such an amazing movement of the ground, once there is more support there will also be more power to eliminate branded local products. Those are not the be all end all of what is included in the throws and of what is possible in the future. There are also artist created handmade throws going to be thrown at Krewe of Boo, the media just mentioned those names because that is what they think people want to hear. I hope that more information helps you make the decision to SUPPORT YOUR COMMUNITY.

        • Cheyenne Buchanan

          If krewe’s have the money local businesses would be willing to personalize their packaging.
          Those items are actual, usable goods and purpose is to promote local
          business, not advance advertising and commercialism. Having a Sucré
          label is no different than having a “Beads by the Dozen” or “Made in
          China” label obviously emblazoned or stickered on the products. The
          benefits of eliminating wasted beads that fill our streets and landfills
          and leach toxins, saving the tons of oil used to produce the beads
          (equivalent to BP oil spill) and the oil used to ship them here and
          package them, as well as keeping millions of dollars here at home, and
          encouraging participation and creativity from the community far outweigh
          any false assumptions of the commercialization of Mardi Gras.
          Unfortunately, we live in a society that follows brand recognition,
          people only jump on the bandwagon when they see something they recognize
          and feel comfortable with. That may be what it initially takes to get
          such an amazing movement of the ground, once there is more support there
          will also be more power to eliminate branded local products. Those are
          not the be all end all of what is included in the throws and of what is
          possible in the future. There are also artist created handmade throws
          going to be thrown at Krewe of Boo, the media just mentioned those names
          because that is what they think people want to hear.

  • Amelia Street

    Tell the local stores that sell throws that there is no economic benefit from bead sales… Just because they don’t get made here doesn’t mean that there is no money to be made off them.

    • Cheyenne Buchanan

      However, there is even more benefit to the ENTiRE community and local ecosystem by using locally produced, crafted, upcycled, recycled, recyclable, and useful items. The stores that profit from selling useless Chinese plastic could make money by selling local throws instead! Same concept, better and even MORE PROFITABLE for all involved.

  • Katrina Brees

    I Heart Louisiana, LLC was founded in 2012 to provide Carnival krewes with locally sourced products to use as throws. We recently partnered with the Krewe of Boo to connect riders with amazing products from local artists, factories and farms across the state. I think krewes will be amazed to see the high quality products we can provide at competitive prices. We are confident that float riders will still be able to ‘make it rain’ with locally produced throws. We offer free consultations to any krewe considering this very positive change. http://www.iheartlouisiana.com

    • Miles Swanson

      This is great work. I was at the “greening mardi gras” conference at the healing center last january and am happy to see the discussion move into positive action. still, im concerned based on the nola.com article and boo that the throws, etc would just become a place for businesses to advertise. Boo said it would be throwing aunt sally’s pralines, sucre candy, elmer’s chee wees, etc. Are these going to be Boo “branded” items that are manufactured by these companies with no advertising? It’s great to support local business Mardi Gras should about advertising for those businesses through throws.

  • Chloe Schwanz

    How excited do you get when you get a shoe or a coconut?! Very excited! Yes, there will be less throws, but think about the giant sack of China-made stuff you drag home after every parade, where it ends up, and how much junk is left in the streets. You might just end up with 10-20 quality, locally produced, local economy-boosting things instead of dozens of Chinese pieces of plastic garbage that instantly looses it’s ‘value’ once the parade is over. This sounds like the beginning of a beautiful and prosperous relationship to this New Orleanian:)

  • Lyle Luquette

    I think it is a great idea for different throws. You have to label yourself different from every other parade if you want to make it as an organization. If Muses didn’t throw shoes, How many people would really go? People go early on Mardi Gras morning for there chance at a coconut. Make yourself different and people will flock to your parade. Good Luck Bobby, it is about time Freret rolled uptown.

  • Sam Balinn

    This is a tough issue. Obviously our bead consumption is terrible for the Earth and creates sweatshops in China. There are whole towns that basically exist for our amusement. But at the same time, beads are fun and cheap. You can throw a huge amount of them, guaranteeing that everyone gets some. It is really a tough call. I think it would make sense for a lot of the more local-oriented parades to use exclusively local stuff. I’m just really torn on this issue. My general feeling is that at this point, economically, socially, and environmentally, the whole world cannot be saved. So we might as well save the things that are most important. To me, New Orleans and its traditions are the most important. Our city is almost certain to be underwater in 100 years either way. Why stop our lifestyle now if that won’t change anything… Like I said, I am really conflicted on this and both sides of the argument really make sense to me.

    • Cheyenne Buchanan

      See Natalie’s comment below. Toxic beads made by mistreated Chinese workers are not a part of the Mardi gras tradition and were only introduced within the last 40 or 50 years. You may not be interested in saving the world but by buying local we would be helping ourselves as well.

  • Natalie

    Re: Mardi Gras and “non-yats” – I had no idea that the Krewe of Rex were composed of “yats”. You learn something new every day!

    Mardi Gras beads used to be hand-strung glass and were few & far between. The proliferation of China-produced plastic beads saturating our parades is a recent development in Carnival history. Let’s set an example by returning to our true roots and giving green alternatives as throws.

  • Gretchen Gershwin

    I usually throw my beads away after Mardi Gras. Unfortunately you can’t even throw them in with the recycle bin. I collect zulu coconuts and other handmade throws, and I actually look forward to receiving them more. Try it for a year and see how it goes! I’m looking forward to seeing the throws yall come up with.

  • Shannon Michael Rockefeller

    Bravo Krewe of Freret! And Krewe of Boo!
    Flames come from sparks.

  • Donya Ferrell Ligon

    Love, love, love the idea of a beadless Krewe. I will be truly disappointed if Freret chooses plastic beads as throws. Freret has the opportunity to make a statement or just be another bead throwing Krewe. Just as the article suggests, the lineup ensures more than enough beads for those of us who REALLY NEED them.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    It’s amazing how New Orleans can get together a krewe and have members pay membership fees and throws, but when it comes to paying their employees, contractors, consultants, college graduates, or a professional a fair compensation to keep them in New Orleans, it hasn’t happened. Some,heck, all of that time and money that goes into parades, that is parties and alcohol, could be used to pay the people that could make New Orleans actually grow and perhaps survive.

    Right now, all that time and money spent for a free party could be used to save New Orleans for the future instead of beer, cigarettes, and FREE throws that get stuck in the closet after Fat Tuesday.

    New Orleans has had 40. 50, heck 100 years of Mardi Gras, but the last 40 have dragged New Orleans to be last in everything.

    Go ahead down vote anything negative as the only people that are going to be left in New Orleans are the alcoholics with no one to talk to.

    • Lyle Luquette

      The employees at Mardi gras world are getting paid to do the artwork on the floats. The contractors and attorneys that work for the Krewe of Freret are getting paid. The city of NOLA is getting paid by the krewe purchasing city permits. The insurance agency is getting paid by the krewe. NOPD is getting paid overtime. Every business on the parade route is making money and all of these people are paying sales tax. As far as I can see everyone is getting paid and almost all of these people are college graduates. So, I guess this city is dragging with 100% hotel occupancy all the way to Baton Rouge, and the extra flights coming to the airport, and everyone in this city is working overtime. Yeah, parades are a terrible idea.

      • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

        40, 60, or 80 years of Parades and Mardi Gras and less than ZERO to show money wise by the residents and ZERO for taxes.

        If what you say is so true, and there is all this economic impact from parades, WHERE’S THE MONEY?

        Highest poverty in America, French Quarter bars claim they can’t pay for extra garbage fees, city can’t fix the streets, the street lights, traffic lights, drainage, sewerage, calls to 911 so late to getting answered, lowest number of police, reduction of fire trucks, etc….

        And didn’t the French Quarter remain dry during Hurricane Katrina? If so, why does its streets have all these pot holes and the street lights are still out? Heck, the lights and streets look makeshift and temporary….sleazy, that is, The Big Sleazy

        And see all those EXTRA FLIGHTS to the airport? Many are the 130,000 who left NOLA after Katrina and who have JOBS and a LIFE that doesn’t have to have 24/7 alcohol outside of Louisiana and are coming to visit the remaining family and friends for whatever event they are flying in for.

        Yet, when the event is over, they FLY OUT of LOUISIANA….as usual.

    • Lyle Luquette

      Also, before you say that underage drinking is why New Orleans is so terrible and crime ridden and poverty stricken, this is a fact that makes all your tirades idiotic. It is 17 to drink in the United Kingdom. They have 8.1 million people. They only had 100 murders. Also, 70% of there alcoholic related accidents were caused by men over the age of 35.

      • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

        Are you sure those are the stats for the United Kingdom? Here’s the one I got via Googling:
        http://bit.ly/14UxsHC

        It paints a very different picture than the one you mention.

        Also the UK has a total population of 62 million and the London Metro area has a population of 15 million. Hence, around 25% are in LONDON and many take PUBLIC TRANSIT, so many are not driving in the first place.

        Also the UK is an ISLAND NATION, totally surrounded by water, COLD WATER. That also affect drug smuggling. While not impossible, it makes it far more difficult to smuggle and the borders of an island nation is more easily defended and monitors due to natural defenses.

        Also, BLACKS, Caribbean and African, make less then 2% of the total population.
        http://bit.ly/3NY9Ii

        • Lyle Luquette

          I followed the London uk gov documents. And, Florida is surrounded by 3 sides of water. Drug smuggling doesn’t seem to be that difficult there.

        • Lyle Luquette

          Yeah, drugs are almost impossible to get in the UK. obviously you have never been there after dark.

          http://www.drugscope.org.uk/resources/faqs/faqpages/where-do-drugs-come-from

          • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

            The distance of from the UK to Central America is a lot farther than say, Florida to Central America.

            By the way, I didn’t say it wasn’t impossible, but distance does make a difference if you were in Central America.

      • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

        Sen. Mary Landrieu’s son arrested on DWI, hit-and-run charges

        http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2013/06/sen_mary_landrieus_son_arreste.html#incart_river_default

        Doesn’t that make TWO SONS for the Landrieu family?

        Apparently, it seems that the OTHER SON’S DWI arrest not to long ago near The Boot around Broadway didn’t send any type of noticeable message to this other son.

        Is it any wonder why states laugh at Louisiana’s Drive Thru Daiquiri policy…..written and argued by Louisiana lawyers, of course….

  • sarah li

    This is such a great idea! So much goes to waste during Mardi Gras, why wouldn’t we want to try a different way that is less harmful to the environment?

  • AbitaMysteryHouse

    The future of Mardi Gras is in products made in Louisiana. The imported beads are so last century. Someone industrious is going to make good money on this. And the krewe captains that take the lead will be local heroes.

    • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

      Let’s say some company in Louisiana were to make a product or unique throw.

      How much would that product, or unique throw, COST where Krewe Members could AFFORD IT while also making a PROFIT for this FUTURE LOUISIANA MANUFACTURING COMPANY?

      If some company in Louisiana were to do this, shouldn’t this company and technology be able to done elsewhere in America?

      One of the reasons there are so many parades, or TOO many parades, is because it’s kinda CHEAP to purchase throws.

  • Cassie Tarr

    I support a bead free parades! Funnel those MILLIONS of dollars into our local economy. STOP the toxic bead waste! Krewe of Freret this is great, I have already heard a lot of good stuff about the people in charge, this makes me even more excited to go to and hype your parade!

  • Lyle Luquette

    I will get out of Endymion to ride in this parade

  • Jennette G

    Kudos to the krewes, activists, and creators leading the way for a greener Mardi Gras which would also promote local economic growth! Huzzah!

    • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

      NOLA and Louisiana doesn’t have GOOD enough jobs to pay for this luxury….If they did, why did some parades from the Westbank move to New Orleans as an attempt to attract riders/,members?

      NOLA and Louisiana is the poorest state, next to Mississippi, in America.

      How can NOLA residents get anywhere by throwing money away in the form of throws, to the public for free?

      Throwing free parties like Mardi Gras or Festivals do not attract businesses to set up shop in NOLA or Louisiana.

      • Cheyenne Buchanan

        Throws are not donated they are purchased.

  • Confederate Cash

    Do it…its going to be the trend in future Mardi Gras!
    Do it…
    Do it
    Do it….
    Plastic beads are so passe…everybodys got em and nobody really even wants them, hence they. dont bother to pick em up.
    its time Carnival throws evolve into something more meaningful and useful.

  • Elishia McAllister

    What is there to lose when higher quality, locally made, throws are given in place of poor quality plastic beads with toxic paint flaking off them…beads that will soon end up recycled at best and clogging up our landfills and/ or bodies of water more realistically…the horrendous conditions and gross mistreatment of the workers? Seems like a win win for anyone with a conscience. A return to the days of fewer throws, that were actually worth using/ holding onto, sounds like a wonderful and very immediate way to intact positive change into our legacy as consumers.

    Anyone with Netflix reading this, I’d highly suggest the documentary Mardi Gras, Made in China: ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kCxvbBsv00

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Most professionals, the one who have the EXTRA CASH to afford a parade ride have left New Orleans for a decent JOB.

    That leaves many with the TRUCK PARADES…basically POOR PEOPLE who want to act like the rich people’s parades. (Very similar to Second Lines in people who should NOT be parading as they are too poor to afford basic things and need EBT, Food Stamps and Section 8.)

    These TRUCK PARADES should have higher permit fees as they really throw a lot of JUNK BEADS and recollect a LOT OF JUNK BEADS to THROW NEXT YEAR.

    These riders of Truck Parades should concentrate of things that have a LONG TERM positive impact on their life, family and their neighborhoods as truck parades have done zero for the last 50 years, except of creating more alcoholics, as they too are part of the Louisiana poor and uneducated workforce that outside companies complain about.

    • Lyle Luquette

      I ride in Endymion on the captains float. Are you saying I do not have a good job?

    • Lyle Luquette

      If this city is so terrible, why are u still living here?

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Maybe they can throw EBT cards, Food Stamps, or perhaps GIFT CERTIFICATES that can only be used only for FOOD?

    Or perhaps throw MRE’s?

    Or maybe throw a rolled up flyer on where the jobs are?

    Or throw a rolled up flyer on how to get a JOB?

    Or throw a rolled up flyer on how to get a pothole fixed or how to get blight fixed or removed?

    Wouldn’t the rolled up flyers be unique as well as

    useful for New Orleans?

  • Vatican Lokey

    Applause to the Krewe of Freret and to Blaine Kern’s Krewe of Boo for evolving past the glut of toxic plastic beads that literally litter the streets of the city years after the parades. I’m looking forward to attending Freret’s first parade and getting my hands on locally sourced, locally centered, unique throws! That’s how it should be anyway.

  • Briaи Luppeиs

    I wish more business and specifically hotels would get on board with recycling points for beads. Most tourist pick out there select bunch of “good beads” and toss the rest before flying home. The ARC of New Orleans will pick up any beads free of charge. It was discouraging to here their idea of a “catch and release” type float at the end of a parade was shot down because technically only riders can throw beads.