Did all of y'all folks stuck in hopelessly uncool parts of the world know that today is Mardi Gras? The press reports that, even though the country is in the midst of an economic downturn, we've seen no decrease in the number of tourists visiting the state for the Carnival season. In fact, the preliminary estimates show that there are more Carnival tourists in town than there were last year.
I think that Carnival tourism will probably benefit from the poor shape of the economy because, as people are trying to scale back their spending, New Orleans will be a very attractive option. The only thing you really need is a hotel room to have a great Carnival vacation. You can buy a 32 oz. beer for $3 on any street in the Vieux Carre. You can pack your own lunch or you can sample the really unique, local cuisine at whatever price range you can afford. Once you have food in your belly and alcohol in your system, you're good to go.
The city of New Orleans offers good transportation from different spots in the city out to the parades, so you don't even need a car. In fact, Louisiana even offers a shuttle service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans for $12 each way. You can see the parades in both cities (the Baton Rouge Carnival atmosphere is a lot more tame than the one in New Orleans) or you can even get a super-cheap hotel in Baton Rouge and party in New Orleans if you want to save money on accommodations.
Would you like to see what it's like out here? Check out these videos!
This first one shows some of the many facets of the Mardi Gras celebration.
The Mardi Gras Indians featured here wear elaborate regalia made of completely hand-stitched feathers and seed beads. Afterwards, the entire suit is taken apart, never to be seen again. Each year, they spend hundreds of hours creating a new one for the Carnival season. It's a labor of love and a very expensive one, at that! Still, they labor away at it faithfully in order to put on a good show and represent their tribe well. The song that accompanies this video talks about this process.
A major part of the Mardi Gras Indian performances comes from the call and response singing that is accompanied by the brass band music. The audience becomes a part of the performance through this process that helps reinforce the culture because in order for it to work, the audience must know the appropriate response to what the Indian is chanting.
This video shows kids performing traditional second-line dancing on the porch of a Hurricane Katrina-damaged house. The true spirit of New Orleans lives on through the children who are keeping the culture alive and resisting the forces of gentrification coming from the post-Katrina carpetbaggers.
I love that the video below captured the anti-Mardi Gras folks out there with the crosses. Deep down inside, you know they are having fun watching the partying even though they have to make up an excuse for coming down here by trying to turn us from our "sinful ways".
This is a fantastic video featuring Big Chief Monk Boudreaux playing with a band called the Golden Eagles. It is a masterful combination of the unique Mardi Gras Indian culture with American rock music.