I have an aunt who lives in New Orleans. She was one of the Katrina refugees and is still working to rebuild her house. She has given me permission to post this email, which tells a different side of Mardi Gras...from one who's gone every year for a long time. I thought you would appreciate the extra input.
I was on your blog and thought you might find this interesting. Arthur Hardy has been printing a Mardi Gras guide for the past 33 years. His web site has some of what you find in his guide www.mardigrasguide.com Check it out! Contrary to what people see on TV, Carnival is a family event. Tourists are often the ones that think they can let it all hang loose! A big group of my friends and their kids meet pretty much at the same place every year to watch parades together. We all have fun (tossing the football around before parades, cooking, eating and catching up). It is a big party. Unfortunately crime sometimes makes its way to the parade route. As in any city you always have to be aware of your surroundings. There are cops at every intersection and also mounted patrols along the parade route. Kids and adults alike get to pet the horses and the cops who ride are great PR. It's amazing to watch my friends who have never been to a parade in Louisiana. It doesn't take long for them to get caught up in the excitement of not only seeing fabulous floats and flambeaux but also catching the throws. When I lived in Chicago and went to my first parade there it was a big let down. New Orleans will have a parade and festival for any occasion. St. Patrick's Day parades (to catch cabbage, carrots, potatos, and other Irish stew items) and St. Joseph's parades (to catch "good luck" fava beans) are next on the agenda. I have a festival calendar and there is not one weekend after Easter that there is not something free to attend. I just thought I would share my Mardi Gras experiences so you'd know what it is really like, first-hand. It really hurts when the media focuses on what is wrong with New Orleans and Louisiana when there are so many things that are right. One is that New Orleans is a strong, Catholic, family-oriented community whose "joie de vivre" shines! Claudia's parents who are now in their 80's joined us for some of the parades this year. They reminisced about traveling to New Orleans as a family every year starting when Claudia was in elementary school to watch Mardi Gras parades.....sitting in the car, eating fried chicken while eagerly waiting for parades to come.... Now that's the true Mardi Gras spirit. And we still fast, reflect, and honor the lenten season,...looking forward to Easter Sunday to celebrate the risen Lord. I might add that we even have another Easter family tradition here in south Louisiana. We don't hide eggs, but rather have a family egg-knocking contest. I love it here because it is so very different from the rest of the country.