New Orleans Through Photos: Mardi Gras 2011
March 6, 2011
By Stuart Palley
Editor’s Note: Stuart Palley is the senior staff photographer for the Daily Mustang. Below is his commentary on Mardi Gras 2011.
New Orleans is known for its vibrant French Quarter and annual Mardi Gras Festivities each year. This weekend scores of SMU students and thousands of college undergrads from across the United States descended onto Bourbon Street for a weekend of raucous partying in traditional Big Easy style.
Elbow to elbow, throngs of imbibed tourists jostled down Bourbon Street, looking for their next drink or free beads from a balcony above. All ages and races were represented, but the primary demographic were young men from college age to their mid 30s. On half a dozen corners, neon signs spelt out advertisements for concoctions like Hand Grenades and Hurricanes. Think of a sugary flavored fruit juice with a healthy dose of high-proof liquor added.
Also, on almost every corner headed north on Bourbon Street were demonstrators from various Christian sects picketing against the “debauchery” they believed Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street to be. Handheld signs paid visitors of New Orleans compliments, proclaiming tourists to be “sinners, fornicators” and “hell bound.” In a place where open containers are allowed on public streets in plain sight of police, it is fitting that such free speech manifests itself.
Outside of the drinking frenzy of Bourbon Street, the rest of the French Quarter and New Orleans celebrate Mardi Gras with multiple parades populated by various Krewes. Krewes are the traditional name for the organizations that make up members in the various parades and range from hereditary and ultra-exclusive down to anybody who can pay dues. Late Saturday morning the Krewe of Iris and Krewe of Tucks participated in back to back parades down St. Charles Avenue and onto Canal Street in pouring rain. Thousands of spectators cheered on the colorful floats, whose riders threw beads and other trinkets to parade watchers.
Wherever one goes in New Orleans during the weekend before Fat Tuesday, they are bound to find a packed bar, restaurant or parade in progress. With literally dozens of Krewes in parades and innumerable watering holes, one would be hard pressed not to be taken in by the revelry and tradition of Mardi Gras. The only downside this year was the constant rain and thunderstorms that occurred frequently over the weekend, dumping inches of rain and a small tornado in Southern Louisiana. After a few Hand Grenades and beads though, most people enjoying Mardi Gras didn’t seem to care and the celebrations went on.