All On a Mardi Gras Day!

Thunderous rain and swirling wind threatened to derail the 2012 Mardi Gras celebration. Parades were rescheduled and the streets were sodden, but by the time dawn broke on Fat Tuesday morning, the skies were clearing and temperatures were forecasted to reach into the lower 70s. Here’s a look back at the day.

The first sight we saw upon entering the streets of the Faubourg Marigny and heading a few blocks to our early morning ground zero was the massive horse pictured above. The thing, which was manned by a group of scantily clad revelers painted gold, looked like it was straight out of a steam punk version of a Brazilian Carnival float.

There were speakers blaring some sort of orchestral Scandinavian heavy metal and as we stood and gawked at this monstrosity filling the block and towering to the second floor balcony of Mimi’s, a confetti cannon blasted from its right flank and showered the crowd with multi-colored bits of paper. Moments later, two smoke cannons fired as well, filling the upper atmosphere with purple and green smoke. The photo above is the contraption in motion.

After an hour or so waiting for the Society of St. Anne to make their appearance we wandered off in search of more merriment. St. Anne has become a phenomenon spawning other walking clubs that honor their own saints both real and imagined. Nearby the St. Cecilia headquarters at Feelings Café, we encountered this group. They were dressed in matching marching band uniforms and a few had actual instruments. But the music was provided by a rolling sound system.

When people seeking to visit New Orleans for the first time ask me is Jazz Fest a better time than Mardi Gras to see the city, I always say that not every New Orleanian celebrates at Jazz Fest, but you have to be a real curmudgeon if you don’t feel the Carnival spirit as is evidenced by the elderly couple below.

Our traditional next stop after the Marigny is heading over to the Zulu parade and the black Mardi Gras celebrations on N. Claiborne and in the Tremé. Zulu was on time this year and between us, we scored four coconuts! The great marching bands of the city were in full force. Here’s St. Augustine High School doing their thing. The video was shot on the uptown section of the parade route by “Baton Rouge” Bill Boelens.

The number of Mardi Gras Indians on the streets downtown seemed sparse this year. But we did get to see the Spirit of the Fi Yi Yi and the Yellow Pocahontas—two of the most celebrated tribes in the city. Big Chief Alfred Doucette (pictured below) held forth at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Tremé.

We headed back into the French Quarter in the late afternoon to check out the creative costume work of other revelers. It was a beautiful day and everyone we encountered was filled with joy.

Photos: Nijme Rinaldi Nun

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