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Adele Elliott: Laissez les bons temps rouler

 

Adele Elliott

 

Tuesday, March 4, will be an ordinary day almost every place in the world -- except in New Orleans. Rain or shine, people will be dancing in the streets, wearing outrageous garb, and having more fun than the residents of some cities have in a decade. Tuesday is Mardi Gras, the madcap culmination of the Carnival Season. 

 

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, the last day of decadence and lunacy before the seemingly endless six weeks of Lent. But, who is thinking about Lent now? No one. 

 

Mardi Gras is a day when anyone can have a fabulous time. Families view the parades along St. Charles Avenue and in the suburbs. The adventurous stroll through the French Quarter where wonders abound. The most fortunate people participate in ways that are unimaginable in middle America. Remember, the fun is not all x-rated. 

 

Some of the krewes (organizations that put on parades and balls) are strictly high society. Some are open to common people, like me. There are those with formal balls, but no parade; some do both. 

 

Once upon a time, the only people who marched in parades were bands and pretty young majorettes. No more. These days, they can be women or men, most with no age restrictions. The marching and dancing krewes appear to be having the time of their lives. 

 

I love the 610 Stompers. They are a group of average guys clad in tube socks, blue shorts and satiny red jackets. Their "crowns" are sweat bands. These guys strut along in synchronized dance steps. They are a crowd-pleaser, so popular that they have appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, on The Tonight Show and The Today Show. Only New Orleans could have produced a group of such insanity. 

 

The NOLA Cherry Bombs are lovely and talented. I would never reveal a lady's age. Let's just say they range from 20-somethings to 50-somethings. The Bombs wear brilliant red tutus, sometimes crazy wigs or face paint. No cookie-cutter looks, in spite of a nod to uniformity with the matching ballet skirts. 

 

The Bombs also have their own personal security force, The Bomb Squad, to protect them along the parade route. 

 

One year, Chris and I marched in the Krewe of Barkus, a dog parade that winds through the narrow French Quarter streets. I decorated a "float" (little red wagon) for my baby, Cordelia. I had a blast. Cordelia did not enjoy it quite as much. This was one parade where the crowds threw treats to the marchers, instead of the other way around. 

 

Of course, New Orleans is not the only place that observes this ritual. The celebration in Rio de Janeiro may be the most famous. Records of Mardi Gras in Mobile pre-date New Orleans' by a few years. For the next three days, Catholic countries all over the world are invited to this party. 

 

Alas, nothing lasts forever. At midnight, the police ride their horses down Bourbon Street, announcing that it is now Lent. Time to go home. The street sweepers follow, spewing high-pressure blasts of water and pushing huge turning scrub brushes. The party's over. 

 

My celebration in Columbus will be a bit tame this year. Chris and I may toast our "farewell to the flesh" with a glass of wine, and a bit of a tear in our eyes. We miss it so much. Oh well, there's always next year.

 

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.

 

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