It’s 101 days to Mardi Gras and we still have a lot of ground to cover before we get there. Laissez les bons temps rouler! means: Let the good times roll! And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
I have two introductions to make today and the two are intricately linked. The first person I want you to meet is John Boutte, a gifted New Orleans Jazz Vocalist, who grew up playing coronet and trumpet in his junior high school and high school’s marching bands. Take a listen to his music, the full version of Treme and I promise it will get you moving.
Mr. Boutte’s photo is from the cover of his Good Neighbor CD. He received with the Big Easy Award for Best Male Vocalist in April of 2001. Other awards followed: “Best Male Vocalist” of the year at the 2003 The Best of the Beat Awards, and in 2006, he was awarded the OffBeat Awards “Best Male Vocalist”.
It is also my pleasure to introduce you a true NOLA (New Orleans, LA) girl, Pamela Mason, who grew up with all traditions of Mardi Gras. She’ll take you there; plunk you down in the heart of one of her favorite Mardi Gras parades.
Please meet Mardi Gras princess, Pamela Mason –
Mardi Gras Memories
Growing up in New Orleans means a party, festival, or a celebration every few days. Being a February baby, Mardi Gras is, hands down, my favorite. My mom always said she was afraid she might go into labor with me and be stuck behind a parade trying to get to the hospital…
Frankly, that wouldn’t have bothered me at all.
In elementary school, as soon as the Christmas glitter was put away, we had Epiphany – it’s a Catholic feast that celebrates the day the three Wise Men found the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Of course, we didn’t pay much attention to that – there was King Cake from McKenzie’s bakery to eat! Every Friday afternoon, just before recess, we’d have a King Cake party. Miraculously nobody ever choked or swallowed the tiny plastic baby baked inside. Just as miraculously, the saints heard my mother’s prayers and I never got the baby – so I never got to bring the next week’s King Cake to school.
Not that it mattered so much, because I had the boasting rights to Mardi Gras parades going right past my front door. In the weeks leading up to the big day, parades are held in the suburbs and outer neighborhoods of New Orleans almost every night. If it didn’t go past my front door, it was only across the street on Judge Perez Drive. Teachers went light on the homework during those two weeks.
Everyone had their favorite parades, their favorite spots to watch parades, and their traditions. For our family, we always went to the Crescent City parade the Saturday before Mardi Gras, because it was during the day and had the best bands and paraded in Carrollton, so we could visit my Aunt Jenny and eat her red beans and rice and shrimp etoufee. I think every high school marching band, dancer, and flag corps marches in the Crescent City parade. There’s nothing like feeling the boom!boom! of the big bass drum as it walks right past , or the pretty girls in their fishnets and boots and sequined outfits… and nobody does it all better than the Purple Knights of St. Augustine High School’s Marching 100.
The following YouTube video isn’t the best quality for sound, but it gives you an idea of how close you are to the bands and the parades in the neighborhood parades. (Trust me…just get past the first thirty seconds.)
I’m old enough to remember the last parades that actually ran inside the French Quarter – with flambeaux carriers! You could touch the floats as they went by – and they were each preceded by young, African American teenaged boys, wearing white shirts and carrying flaming torches to light the way. It’s easy to see now what a public safety hazard that was, but back then, it was a nod to the early parades before electricity and street lamps. The flambeaux were the only lights for the people to be able to see the stunning costumes and floats – pulled by horses back then. (And no, I’m not so old that I remember horse drawn floats!)
My father was a member of the Krewe of Pegasus – a krewe created by various military branches in 1957. He was king of Pegasus before I was born, and his satin costume and rhinestone crown hung in our cedar closet. The train is too heavy and too expensive and remains property of the krewe, but to see his scepter in our closet when I was a little girl made me certain that I was a real Mardi Gras princess.
Of course, that’s not really the way things work.
A debutante who is a daughter of one of the krewe members is always the queen of the different krewes, so that answered my question as to why my mother wasn’t wearing a queen’s crown in the pictures. (She did wear an exquisite, original Christian Dior gown – a much better deal if you ask me.) And my brother and sister – pages for the court, did not get to ride the queen’s float for the parade… too young.
There are so many different facts and memories of Mardi Gras in N’Awlins, it will take Linda a looooong time to cover all of them! Thank you for letting me share with you just a few of my own!
Here’s some additional info about Miss Pamela:
Pamela Mason is the owner of WriterMason Productions that works with romance authors to establish their platform, identify their brands, and promote more effectively their books and appearances to their targeted reading audience. When she’s not working with clients, she’s the Jane Jetson of the Digital Age of Publishing, studying trends and the business news of this crazy, upside down business. When she’s not doing THAT, she’s writing a contemporary fantasy called Glitz & Blitz – Careful What You Wish For. And reading. And making coffee. Find her at WriterMason.com, all the online communities, and at writer/reader conferences – make sure to say hello!
Thank you, Miss Pamela.
To All Ya’ll reading about Mardi Gras, let me know HOW you’re gonna Laissez les bons temps rouler!”