Mardi Gras: one last hurrah before Lent

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a kaleidoscope of colour, exuberance and great noise, when the Big Easy lets the good times roll

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 01:00

This year, under the bridge which skirts North Clairborne Avenue, a couple of tribes come out to parade and pirouette in the afternoon after the Zulu parade has played itself out. Each tribe comes with a Big Chief, Big Queen, Spy Boy, Flag Boy and Wild Man, all sporting incredibly detailed, hand-crafted suits of feathers and beads that take up to a year to make (hence why they stay under the bridge rather than see all that work washed away in the rain).

Soundtracked by chants, drums and tambourines, the Indians’ ritual jousts and challenges as they encounter one another is a reminder that New Orleans has many different deep cultural ties to bind the place together. This is living theatre honed by tradition.

Best foot forward
Mardi Gras puts all these connections on show. It allows the city to put its game face on and best foot forward. It allows its citizens, many of whom were tested to the utmost after Katrina battered and bruised the city, to throw back their heads, show defiance and let the good times roll once again.

However, those in town for Mardi Gras these days will note that a new kind of normality has taken hold within the city limits. In some parts of the city, such as the northern blocks of Canal Street, there’s now a rash of construction work going on, with new offices and buildings popping up. There are still parts of the city in need of a shine – many streets of the Lower Ninth Ward remain pockmarked and potholed after the hurricane ravages of nearly a decade ago – but the overall feel is of a city that has regained an equilibrium.

The next big date on the entertainment calendar is Jazz Fest at the end of April. It’s another occasion for thousands of visitors to drop by and sample what New Orleans has to offer, another twirl on the parade ground for the city’s music and musicians. And before you or they know it, Mardi Gras will have rolled around again. In Nola, the wheels keep spinning.

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