Everyone loves a parade, right? Well, just 10 hours down the road from Knoxville the floats are rolling, the bands are playing and the beads are flying in New Orleans. It is Carnival season and the countdown to Mardi Gras is underway.
While you might think the party just gets started on Fat Tuesday, that’s not at all the case. In fact at midnight on February 21st, the party will be over, so now is the time to think about making a trip you likely will never forget.
Millions of people descend on New Orleans during the Carnival season with most coming the weekend before. That’s when you will find the biggest parades, some of the biggest crowds and often the biggest names in entertainment. With that in mind, remember lodging may be at a premium, especially if you plan on staying anywhere near the main parade routes or Downtown. Still, you should be able to find lodging close enough that you can go and enjoy this wild celebration.
For those not familiar with Mardi Gras, it’s not all about the French Quarter. In fact what happens there usually stays there. Contrary to popular belief, the parades do not run through the French Quarter. That’s just the place where tens of thousands of people wander aimlessly looking up at the balconies, hoping to catch beads and perhaps a glimpse of something else.
Groups called Krewes organize the parades. All are free to watch and unlike most other parades in America, are free of commercial support. The Krewes raise the money to host the parade, pay for the beads and other throws and put on the elaborate balls that often follow them.
Getting to the parade routes early is highly recommended, especially Endymion on Saturday, and the slew of parades leading up to Bacchus on Sunday. Mardi Gras Day parades are even more packed and include Rex, the King of Carnival and the famed Krewe of Zulu parade.
While the debauchery in the French Quarter garners much of the attention outside of New Orleans, the parades illustrate the long traditions that go with Carnival. Those include making parade watching a family affair. People of all ages revel in the spirit created when brightly decorated floats filled with masked men (or women) pass by and the beads start flying. It’s certainly time to say “Throw me something Mister!”
Mardi Gras 2012 promises to be one of the biggest in years. According to its website, The Krewe of Endymion will have Maroon 5 as its Grand Marshals this year. Anderson Cooper will once again be joining the parade as well as Country Super duo Big & Rich.
The Krewe of Bacchus announced on its website that comedian Will Ferrell will reign as King and Orpheus welcomes Brett Michaels and Cyndi Lauper.
One great resource for Mardi Gras is the Times-Picayune’s MardiGras.com website. The site helps you find parade routes, times and brings you tips on the best ways to enjoy the Best Free Party on Earth! Your Knoxville Road Trip Examiner plans on bringing you more on the parades and events happening in New Orleans in the coming weeks.