My First Mardi Gras in Louisiana — Or Beads, Booze and Riding on a Krewe of Centaur Float
Confession time: During my first few weeks living in Louisiana last summer, I thought a co-worker had misspelled the word "crew" when I saw it written as "krewe." She still (rightfully) teases me about it to this day. I was a stranger in a strange land, a Yankee from New Jersey living in the south.
This weekend, I guess you could say I officially become a Southerner by riding on a float during my first Louisiana Mardi Gras.
Townsquare Media procured a spot in the vaunted 2013 Krewe of Centaur Mardi Gras parade in Shreveport. I was lucky enough to ride with several co-workers on our very own float and get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into creating a Mardi Gras experience to remember for an estimated 200,000 people who attended this year.
Until that day, the closest I'd been to a Mardi Gras parade was seeing them dramatized on TV shows and in movies. When I told my fellow employees this, they laughed and assured me I would not be seeing any female nudity today. This was far from a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade, but that didn't make it any less of a spectacle. They weren't kidding.
Before we even set out, I saw crazy costumes, spectacular floats, marching bands and beads. Lots of beads. Seriously. The float was jam-packed with the things, which I was told were as valuable as gold to parade attendees. And it was our job to toss these inexpensive yet priceless baubles to the tens of thousands of people lining the parade route.
Challenge accepted, Shreveport.
Another thing I realized was just how serious everybody took the event. Our crew was instructed on proper bead-throwing etiquette and attire (black shirts, white gloves, masks) prior to rolling out. We were also told when we could start throwing, and that we should stop when the float wasn't moving.
But none of that talk could prepare me for the hours of fun and insanity to follow. I saw whole families piled onto the backs of their pick-up trucks, all screaming for our attention. Young kids sat atop their parents' shoulders with arms outstretched, not unlike how they'd reach for a brand new toy in a toy store. And one too many guys who mockingly flashed us as we drove by.
I quickly learned that making eye contact with crowd members prior to tossing them a ring of beads helped ensure I wasn't pelting unaware strangers in the face. Of course, that still happened, but with decreasing frequency as we rolled at a snail's pace through Shreveport.
Hours later, after the throngs of people decreased and then disappeared altogether, I was surprisingly exhausted. We had dispensed all our beads in the closing moments of the parade, and I found myself wishing it wasn't over.
But as we crept down the now eerily empty streets blaring music and dancing and laughing, I thought to myself, 'there's always next year.' And I can't wait.
Justin Massoud is the Digital Managing Editor at Townsquare Media Shreveport. He was born in New Jersey and lived there for most of his life before moving down to Louisiana in 2012. He still can't get over people calling shopping carts "buggies."