The long awaited day was here at last. We boarded the bus in costume and headed back to the viewing stands where we enjoyed previous parades. Because we arrived well before the parade arrived in that area, we walked down the middle of St. Charles Street and became the parade. People began to read our "sheet" signs and laugh. Every few steps we would have to stop to be photographed. A TV crew videoed us and a radio station put one of us on live. Everyone seemed to love a bunch of old folks with a sense of humor.
We had tickets to see three parades in the viewing stand, but our tour guide clearly was tired of parade viewing and offered to take us into the French Quarter to see and be seen. As we wandered around the crowds grew thicker and the costumes more outrageous. People took pictures of us; we took pictures of them. Every so often a spontaneous parade would break out. All you seemed to need is a few folks with instruments and a few folks with costumes and you were a parade. The Pete Fountain Walking Team was a bit more credible. Pete and his clarinet are a New Orleans institution and as he and his band walked along, we started accumulating beads once again. The balconies were loaded with revelers who threw beads at the walkers below. It was hard to keep an eye on all the throwers and some of us were bead bombed. In a few hours some of us were suffering from serious cervical bendage.
The action was hottest around the block of Bourbon Street where gay bars are clustered. Groups of evangelicals chanting Bible verses and warning about our imminent damnation were surrounded by cheerful crowds listening to jazz and funky music. No one fought, but it didn't look like any souls were saved today.
As exhaustion set in, our guide turned a corner and brought us to a great Cajan restaurant which was up to handling 25 of us with no reservation and giving us separate checks. We easily could have come to Mardi Gras on our own, but the experience and know how that Roland brought to our ten days here, made us so happy that we decided to celebrate Mardi Gras with him and this RV rally group.
We were sorry to miss the parades today, but walking the French Quarter was a show not to be missed and an equally significant part of the Mardi Gras experience. Mardi Gras has gotten so big, many of the suburbs hold parades of their own. They are certainly family friendly and we see interviews on TV where families glow with excitement as they introduce their young children to an event which they clearly treasure from their own youth. It's hard to convey the excitement and fun we've experienced here. And that's without a single alcoholic beverage. You've got to come and see it for yourself!