Yes, it is that time of year again. Long nights and longer weeks all roll together to form an epic Carnival season that leaves veterans rejuvenated with New Orleanian spirit, and novices depleted and broken yet in awe of our Mardi Gras traditions.
Everyone has their survival lists for Mardi Gras. They are reiterated and acted upon year after year until there is no room for missteps. My list is short and sweet: 1) Always carry a flask because bars are packed, 2) Know where the bathrooms are, 3) Be home by 5 p.m. on Mardi Gras Day.
Here is a rundown of what these three heavily invested Mardi Gras locals do to accomplish a successful Carnival season.
1. Robin Barnes, Songbird of New Orleans
Although Robin isn’t a typical reveler (her music schedule is jam-packed throughout the year), she sees more Mardi Gras celebrations than almost anyone.
Typical Mardi Gras schedule: Catch her performing with her band at the Windsor Court and Hotel Monteleone every Friday and Saturday.
Favorite drink of the season: “I don’t drink alcohol, so I would maybe recommend a nice chai latte from Mojo to help people cope with the late night partying.”
Favorite parades: “My favorite is Muses, the fun and all-woman krewe with GORGEOUS and decorative floats. I love the idea of catching the coveted Muses stiletto.”
Favorite Mardi Gras ball: “Orpheus, for sure. From the live music to the celebrities.”
To catch all of Robin’s appearances, go to her site or follow her on Instagram and Facebook, where she is very active and always has regular updates.
2. “Anonymous” Two-Krewe Parade Rider
Don’t-miss parades: Krewe du Vieux and Muses.
Drinking: “Bourbon milk punch in the morning is so good.”
On being a parade rider: “Like being a rock-n-roll star for a day,” and, “I once rode in three parades but vowed never to do that again. My arm was so sore from throwing.”
Areas of town to participate in Mardi Gras: “Everywhere has something fun going on, but pick Uptown or Downtown and stay there! Never drive.”
Pick-me-up food: “Popeye’s. Good hot or cold,” and, “Never buy a king cake. Someone has already bought it and they are everywhere.”
Favorite part of the parade ride: “Hard to say. The city has different phases along the route. Uptown, there are a lot of families and college kids. Then you hit Lee Circle and the bandstand creates a totally different atmosphere since no one is on the ground.”
Typical Mardi Gras season: “From the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday to the Wednesday right after. It’s a long and exhausting week.”
Notes to parade viewers: “Don’t throw stuff back at us and don’t keep screaming if we are stopped. I’ve seen so many people get upset if we don’t give them what they want. Like high school boys visibly infuriated. But we have to last the entire parade with those throws.”
Best costume you’ve ever worn: “I don’t know. I’m unfortunately in suits most of the time.”
3. Rickie, the Fun-Loving, Millennial Reveler in the “Alternative” Krewes
Plans for Mardi Gras: He will march with Bate Bunda (the Brazilian drum group typically found performing in Hi-Ho Lounge or outside Jazz Fest seen above) in Chewbacchus and Krewe Delusion, be seen serving up food with Congresso Cubano at Musicbox, and walking on Fat Tuesday with Interrobang.
How would you describe Mardi Gras to a visitor?: “It’s the most magical time of year and it's a faux pas to wear a costume more than once in the two weeks.”
Where should people go to appreciate Mardi Gras?: “There are many ways to celebrate. You can go Uptown and watch the more traditional side, or stay Downtown and go to unique venues to see the crazier parties. But certainly don’t stick to just one side of Mardi Gras. Get it from all angles.”
When does your season start?: “Twelfth Night!”
Your favorite Mardi Gras morning cocktail: “A full Gingeroo bottle of cold brew, cream and bourbon. That’ll really kick start your Fat Tuesday.”
Plans for Fat Tuesday: “I typically am having my Mardi Gras cocktail and pushing the Interrobang float towards the St. Ann Parade by 8 a.m. Then we’ll walk as a krewe towards the French Quarter. Catch us on Royal Street!”
What does Interrobang mean?: “Kind of a mixture between a question mark and exclamation point.” Google defines it as “a punctuation mark designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question.”
What is the Interrobang float this year?: “Gillian the Space Whale.”
That’s it! I wish Mardi Gras was more complicated and there was a secret rule book, but there isn’t. Mardi Gras is a beautiful time because you learn to move with the subconscious and see the beauty around you.
Whether you are going big or just going home this Mardi Gras season, remember the remember the old adage that every local agrees on: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”