Mardi Gras recap, NOLA 2010

So we always thought that Mardi Gras equaled Girls Gone Wild. Period.

We were so, so wrong.

We would get mad, working in Black Rock City with the DPW, when others more wet behind the ears than our dusty cranky faction would say, “Yeah, Burning Man’s great! It reminds me of Mardi Gras!”

You don’t know what you’re talking about, our subconscious would scream. Have you any idea what it takes to live in a van for 2 months out of the year, in one of the harshest environments on Earth, laboring like a hard-time prisoner and eating nothing but Pabst Blue Ribbon and bacon? … Do you have any inkling as to the effort involved in building a fantastical city out of THIN AIR for FIFTY THOUSAND PEOPLE, and that we have to TEAR IT ALL BACK DOWN TO NOTHING?

(The subconscious, you see, can become quite the Bill Hicks-level righteous aggravationist when faced with 10-hour days under the hot sun in hangovery dust storms.)

But you know what? On Friday and Saturday nights? When we’ve built the city infrastructure and every-thousand ticketholders have come and added the bells and whistles and finally put down the tools to suit up in their finery and go out on the town and look at what other people have been working on all year in their spare time? It DOES remind us of Mardi Gras. Now that we’ve been to Mardi Gras as New Orleans residents, we get it.

dear Pan, please bless the proceedings and continue scaring the little children. And thank you for wearing pants. Amen
Dear Pan, please bless the proceedings and continue scaring the little children. And thank you for wearing pants. Amen

Our first parade ever was Muses, on Friday night. They’re the only all-woman Krewe which marches after nightfall, and we heard it was the best one, with the best throws, so we braved traffic and crippling cold weather to post up in front of the corn dog stand on St. Charles and watch the art cars — er, Mardi Gras parade floats — do their thing.

Krewe d’Etat king for a day. Sorry for the grainy cameraphone pix but you see just what we saw

Before Muses, which had moved from the Thurdsay due to rain, we saw the Mystic Krewe of Hermes, Le Krewe d’Etat, and the Krewe of Morpheus parades, all on the same route. If you don’t know what any of that means, then you’re up to the speed we were at a month ago, so do your own research. Mardi Gras is a fascinating, culture-rich, old-world-taken-from, across-all-barriers holiday that (this sounds corny but) makes me proud to be an American.

soldiers, marching bands, dancing girls, fire-bearers, creepy hooded men on horseback, punishing sound systems … yep, all things we like

And just like at the Burning Dude, on the weekend anyway, attendees revel in distributing and/or collecting useless crap that, for one night only, seems like treasure. MOOP! We gave in though: Two boxes of Mardi Gras beads, all colors and sizes, somehow made their way back to the house. Right now they sit in the closet, waiting for the day when we till the weeds out of the back yard. Then we can throw the beads up in the tree, and if they fall out, they won’t mess up the rental gardening equipment.

all their floats had themes about how to please a woman. this one was the cutest

Indeed, the Mystic Krewe of Muses did bust out some good throws. We caught a reusable grocery bag, a stuffed-animal toy for the dog, and a necklace and matching bracelet made of high-heeled Barbie shoes. The Muses’ grand prize throw — the object of the game, if you’re that serious about throw-collecting at parades — is a custom-decorated real shoe, gaudied up with glitter and tassels and puffy paint. Talk about useless. But like we said, for one night, it’s gold.

The actual point of the parades, of course, is not to throw and/or collect beads … really, the whole City of New Orleans agrees to come out to party at the same time, to lay down their weapons and insecurities, and to make eye contact with — and mutually celebrate — the rest of their hometown. Each bead-throw is a person-to-person gift exchange (“Throw me something, Mister!”) … a way for those riding on the floats to make people happy, and for those on the street, a way to reinforce the sometimes-shaky notion that most people, given normal circumstances, are really really nice.


The tourists? They’re on Bourbon Street. The rest of Mardi Gras is for us.

About the author: Summer Burkes

Summer Burkes

Summer Burkes has been rousting about at Burning Man since 1998. She first met her dusty DPW / Cyclecide / Bike Club fam-dambly on the back of The Bucket. A Cacophony Society enthusiast, Summer loves explosions and cake.

7 Comments on “Mardi Gras recap, NOLA 2010

  • Michael Cunningham says:

    Hi Summer,
    I read in your article that you now call NOLA home or were you with locals? If so, Welcome Home ! YES, there is definitely a difference in how locals celebrate and how visiting public celebrates. I’ve been a Burner since 1996 and New Orleans / South Louisiana has and will always be home for me. I am excited to know that there is now even more Burner presence here. New Orleans can be a hard group to motivate . ala loose organizational tolerance. But, if you need volunteers for an event let me know … I’m in that number !

    Report comment

  • xhoosier says:

    I like your comment about girls gone wild and mardi gras. I have gone maybe 10 or so times in the last 25 years and we take our son with us. Friends in our home town always ask us about all of the wild things that happen at Mardi Gras and how our kid deals with it. Even after explaining to them that there are the parades near the French Quarter and then there are the parades in the local neighborhoods they still don’t get it. Not exactly like explaining buring man to someone who hasn’t been there but close. You will not understand unless you experience it!

    Report comment

  • BrotherMichael says:

    WOW. I had no idea of the level of creativity at Mardi Gras.
    Thank you so much for opening my eyes. I had never before considered going but now I will put it on my list of things to do before I depart this earth.

    Report comment

  • Nawlinshome says:

    I’m a native New Orleanian with a deep desire to experience Burning Man. Just like Mardi Gras, it’s best viewed with the natives. I’d love to meet some locals that venture out to Burning Man each year or make some online friends that would be willing to befriend me at Burning Man in return for hanging out with the locals for Mardi Gras.

    Report comment

  • Pixel says:

    Glad to see you come around Summer! I am 30 yrs. young and have never missed a Mardi Gras, even since I have been living in CO since Katrina forced me out of my hometown. It was not until I moved to CO that I really learned what the rest of the world thinks of Mardi Gras…I suppose very similar to what those whom have never been to Burning Man think of it. People outside of the South are often shocked to learn that I enjoyed MG my whole life, and yes most definitely even as a kid, but those are the ones that have not been and don’t get it. After our first burning man 3 yrs ago my husband and I looked at each other and said “reminds me of Mardi Gras!” and we were not referring to the trinkets, drunks, & topless! It reminded us of MG because of the feeling you get during this blissful week full of culture, community, love, and the “laissez faire” & “laissez les bon temps roulez” attitude that also takes over BRC. The residents of BRC, like New Orleans, for a week become your best friends opening their homes (or camps) to everyone no matter who you are or where you’re from, where work is not a word (unless you’re working on a float of course) but singing, dancing, and frolicking in the streets is mandatory. And like Burning Man, you see some of the most amazing costumes and parties ever! We are so thankful that BM & MG are 6 months apart, as they have both now become our 2 biggest celebrations & trips “home” of the year.

    Report comment

  • janine says:

    Hello, I met a really great man named Levy at Burning Man 2010. It was saturday night. Levy is from New orleans and has an irish last name which I can’t remember..plz help me get in contact. Thank u janine

    Report comment

  • Comments are closed.