Beads, baby, beads! (Jan. 27, Feb. 2)

January 25, 2008

Every time the weather forecast comes on the radio, people in this neighborhood shush the kids and hold their breath. Will it warm up? For all that people love Soulard’s Mardi Gras, no one wants to freeze their t— off (toes, that is, toes!) celebrating it. Now that the forecast for Sunday, Jan. 27, is a balmy 50, dog owners are breathing out in relief that their precious pooches won’t freeze their t— off either at the Barkus Pet Parade. It starts at 1 p.m., but plan to arrive early and stay late (after the crowning of the king and queen at 2 p.m. near Soulard Market); pet-watching is just as much fun as people-watching — more fun, actually, because if you get caught staring you simply strike up a conversation with the pet’s owner. The costumes can get so creative and elaborate, it almost makes me wish we had a pet … almost. Don’t tell the kids!

After Sunday, the breath-holding starts again for Saturday’s Grand Parade. Last year’s chill put a damper on our party — only half the RSVPers showed up, and we were eating leftover food for weeks — but it didn’t seem to matter once we got to the parade route and the beads started flying.

We always situate ourselves right near the end of the route (at Sidney Street and 7th Street). There’s ample stroller parking at the rear of the crowd (strollers are great for storing plastic bottles of beverages — cans, glass and coolers will be confiscated — as well as seating kids who need a break from the action and holding surplus beads). The lewdness lessens the further south the parade gets, and there’s a relatively small chance that kids will see much flesh, regardless of the weather. (And I know from experience that if fellow parade-watchers ARE flashing, kids notice it way less than their adult male chaperones.) The final reason we like that area is that the floats are looking to offload beads in a big way.

If you come, be prepared to park on the west side of I-55 (Benton Park) or downtown and ride a free shuttle. The drop-off points are near the north end of Soulard, so if you ride the shuttle you’ll probably want to stick near the parade’s starting point (at Chouteau and Broadway), which I’ve heard is pretty kid-friendly too. Definitely bring plenty of food and drinks for the kids — it’s fine as long as it’s not in coolers, glass or cans. Plenty of wipes too, because if the ground is muddy and kids are scrambling for beads that have fallen there, things get messy fast.

This year the free live-music stages are both in the heart of the party, so we’ll content ourselves with the DJs in parking lots along the route. We’ll also skip the Fat Tuesday parade downtown. The route is straight along Broadway this year, from Lumiere Place to Kiener Plaza, and I can’t imagine a more unattractive place for it (going under I-70, for example). The buildings are close to the street for pretty much the whole route, so the sidewalks will be jammed … Too bad, because I love the atmosphere of nighttime parades. The world needs more of them.

Heck, the world needs more Mardi Gras parades in general! I got hooked back in ’95, when my husband and I lived in Biloxi, Mississippi, for a winter. We Mardi Grased like locals — no parade was too small for us — and we’ll never forget the people we met and the sights we saw. (Oddly, I don’t remember much lewdness there either. As in St. Louis, there are sections where it’s de rigeur and others where it’s not, and I guess I’ve just always been attracted to the tame stuff!) Then we moved to Germany, where the weather’s just as cold as St. Louis but the Fasching season is longer and more elaborate. Now I’m not sure if I could live in a place that didn’t do Mardi Gras.

mardi gras

And here’s a picture from 2008!

parade 08

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4 Responses to “Beads, baby, beads! (Jan. 27, Feb. 2)”

  1. bomle Says:

    Two more tips from a Mardi Gras vet (although I haven’t been with the baby yet):
    –If you take kids, stick to Broadway/7th street. The neighborhood, especially after the parade, gets raunchy and (weather cooperating) very crowded.
    –Standing on the east side of Broadway (if you can cross the barriers) is a little less crowded than the west side, but bring a long stick to get beads in the tree branches.
    –The crowd is generally very friendly, and any nasty groups can be easily avoided by moving a little up or down the street.

    And, please, use the port-a-potties!

  2. laz56 Says:

    Please don’t critique my writing… I know you are a journalist. I was just at the winter carnival. Check out my site. I put photos on my flickr. Enjoy!

  3. mom22kids Says:

    Thanks for the additional tips! All very true. And let me just add that the police are fairly lax about letting people cross the street barriers until the parade gets close.

    I’d love to check out photos from the ice carnival — can you send the link too? Thank you! I hope you got some shots of the very cute stocking caps people were sporting. I definitely have to invest in more colorful headgear!

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