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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -
It's one of the most anticipated times of the year along the Mississippi Gulf Coast...Mardi Gras! And there are MANY sides to Mardi Gras.
I was honored to be asked to be the Grand Marshal for the Nereids parade. After riding in the wonderfully loud and festive parade, my brain has been in overload. I'm thankful to all the nice and respectful revelers.
My favorite had to be holding the baby boy who apparently is calmed by my voice (that's what his parents said)! I love the squeals of kids when they get a really good throw. It still makes me smile just thinking about it.
I guess my age is a contributing factor that has me looking at and dissecting all the different sides to Mardi Gras.
There seems to be some who just like to party. You know, the ones who enjoy the cultural festivities of music, dancing, costumes, drinks, throws and beads...lots and lots of BEADS. You can hear people screaming, "Throw me something, mister!" all season long.
To some, it means celebrating and overindulging through Fat Tuesday, and then celebrating Lent by cleansing and/or giving up things (to make yourself better) for 40 days.
To others, especially the Catholics, it is religious. Fat Tuesday became known as the excess and debauchery prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is February 13 this year.
Whether you fit into one of these groups or have a different take on it all, one fact remains, Mardi Gras is celebrated big time in South Mississippi!
When I was younger, I think of Mardi Gras as a big party. It's a time to socialize with friends and have a good time! As you get older (make a little more money), you are invited to RIDE on floats.
I have been lucky enough to ride on a few floats since living here in South Mississippi. I've also been asked to be the Grand Marshal of a few parades and have gotten to judge a few parades, as well.
I think my favorite is to simply attend a parade as bead catcher. Here's why: it is expensive to be a part of Mardi Gras! One of the first time I rode in the Nereids parade, I was shocked at how quickly I was able to spend $300!
I realize a lot of people spend A LOT more than that. But I consider myself frugal, and that's a lot of money to spend on throwing trinkets and beads to other people!
"Oooohhhh, that's sounds FUN!" I thought.
Then that invitation is followed by that price tag...$75 to ride. I was on my own for beads. That's another $250-$500 easy, depending on what kind of beads and throws you purchase.
That price really isn't that bad though. You have to think: the float cost money, the driver has to be paid, gas is really high still, decorations for the float, etc. So, the ride price just helps the krewe make back some of their money that they've already spent.
Some of the big New Orleans parades cost WAY more. Plus, you have to spend at least $2,500 on beads, just to ride. That seems crazy to me. I mean, thank goodness people want to spend that kind of money because it sure is fun for me as a parade goer!
Mardi Gras is a economic engine for the coast because of tourists coming in to celebrate in a place that is touted as more 'family friendly' than our Louisiana neighbors to the west and because of the amount of money spent on beads and throws.
When I say beads are expensive, I mean the amount of beads you have to buy adds up rather quickly. One strand of small beads is very inexpensive, but when bought in mass quantity, those pennies add up. Some of the throws I had were $3 a piece.
Plus, I've had people throw beads back at me and hit me in the face or head. That is disheartening, to say the least. It definitely shows that people get out of control and can be quite rude, but that's everywhere in life. It's just how you handle it.
I realize I'm a bit naive about life at times, but I really wish people would be a little more thankful that people are willing to spend their hard earned money to buy beads and throws to give to other people to make sure they have a fun time at Mardi Gras!
A lot of the beads and throws I had yesterday were courtesy of the Krewe of Nereids, so if you caught something good from me, thank the Krewe of Nereids! They had my car loaded up with all kinds of happiness like: posters, cups, beads, spears, flowers, etc.
I also had some beads from School & Carnival. One of my favorite things is the bouncy balls though. I love watching people try to catch them (insert laugh here) and their heads looking around trying to find them!
I think I'm Grand Marshaled out for the time being. I'll either be a by-stander or on a float next year. But this season is not over yet. I still have a parade to judge and another parade to report live from before the 2013 Carnival goes down in the history books.
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