Mardi Gras to me has a few forms. The mother of all Mardi Gras is Carnival in Brazil. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the daughter. There are a multitude of grand daughters now throughout much of the south, including Galveston, TX and Mobile, AL. My favorite is in Shreveport, LA. A quick 3 hour trip east from Dallas but a world away in atmosphere. All of Louisiana has the “ "laissez les bon temps rouler" or “let the good times roll” attitude. Any excuse for friends to get together to boil some crawfish, drink some adult beverages, and have great time is a good excuse. The fact that Mardi Gras is centered around the tradition of Lent & is meant to be the last hoorah before giving up your favorites things is a side note now.
Every Louisiana Mardi Gras has Krewes who create the floats and throw the beads. There are 4 major Krewes in Shreveport that host a parade: Centaur, Barkus and Meoux, Gemini, and Highland. The Centaur & Gemini Krewes are the largest most well known Krewes and are statewide. Highland is our favorite and the one I am writing about. The Highlands is a historic district of Shreveport and has the most interesting of the 4 parades. Most people don’t know about the Highland parade unless you live in Shreveport. It is held on Sunday during the day instead of Saturday night, which makes you think it is less of a party. You would be WRONG!
The Highland district goes all out for its parade. Many of the homeowners along the winding parade route throw parties that are more an open house than anything. The walk to find the perfect spot along the parade route is half the fun. Walking down the street, you could be offered anything from a plate of crawfish to a red solo cup filled with well mixed Hurricane. The smell of food boiling or barbecuing tickles your nostrils while a mix of music and laughter fills your ears. That is almost sensory overload and then you see the costumes. Folks in Shreveport go all out in their dressing for Mardi Gras. The officially colors of green, purple, and gold are everywhere. Feathered masks & boas, glittering vests, blinking jewelry & hats, and the BEADS can be found on every local you see. It is the biggest block party with the craziest neighbors ever.
Now let’s talk about the parade itself. The parades are all about the floats & the “throws.” Every float has a different sponsor & theme and their “throws” can be quite creative. Beads are the normal throw & what everyone goes to catch. Some of the beads being flung from these moving floats are downright lethal. Most of the beads are just normal beads you see all the time but they do come in different designs or sponsors will attach cool things to them. We once got a set of orange beads with small plastic bats hanging from them. This year we got black beads with a skeleton about 5 inches tall attached. I let the host of our beautiful BNB have that necklace in exchange for some pretty beads & as a thank you for her hospitality. If you want to know more about the old restored Victorian home we stayed in, please follow the link at the bottom of the page. Some of the beads are inches across & are heavy as can be. You get a child throwing a massive set of beads & you better have a strong catching hand or just duck, which is what I do. I let my hubby catch those so I don’t get knocked out by huge balls strung together into a necklace. Some of the larger necklaces can weigh pounds. Seriously!
The Highland parade is our favorite for the neighborhood feel of it and the just weird throws you get. This year hurled at our heads were beads, of course, frisbees, plastic cups, Moon pies, Ramen noodles, stuffed animals, a small elf on the shelf, a singing plastic cat, hot dogs, and even slices of pizza wrapped in foil. Folks will throw down over the hot dogs & pizza. It is pure entertainment to watch grown adults jump in front of each other for a hot dog thrown from a parade float. Nothing thrown from these floats is actually worth anything but it is so much fun trying to get that unusual set of beads or a collection of plastic cups from all the sponsors. Like I said, in Louisiana, any excuse is a good one. I will be going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans in the next couple of years and I will then compare the two. From my understanding, Shreveport keeps their Mardi Gras celebration much less risque than New Orleans. We will just have to see!
For Mardi Gras parades around the country check out these websites!