You've seen them in the streets of the French Quarter—anywhere from two to 200. They've got a band, stilt walkers, jugglers, clowns, drinks, smiles; they're dancing, throwing beads, and waving handkerchiefs to the astonished onlookers who wonder at the banner that reads, "Welcome Home, Sonny!" or whatever you can imagine as something that a person would want to have a parade for: birth, graduation, Patsy's divorce, or (in many cases) just for the hell of it. Did you know that you can DIY? You can, and I'm going to walk you through the process of giving/having your very own customized second line procession, or as we commonly call it, "takin' it to the streets!"
First of all, you could call a service that can provide you with all the bells and whistles, including a restaurant destination for an après marche celebratory banquet. They will handle any permits, escorts, and accoutrements for your event. Or, you can continue to plow ahead on your own, and, by now, we've all seen the Hannibal Buress stand-up routine about having a parade in the streets of the French Quarter and how easy it is to organize and pull off. Well, surprise, it's a little more complicated than the three minutes or so of humor that he uses, and although it isn't rocket surgery, it's not like me—cheap and easy. More like a full-time job for whoever chooses to take on this challenge. I did try to follow his directions: "First you go down to the police station and get a permit," he said; to which the answer is: no, you need to get a permit from city hall (1300 Perdido St., 7th floor) in person or online at nola.gov/onestop. The permit is $100.25 for non-profits and $200.25 for everyone else (why the $0.25? Who knows?).
Next, you'll need to choose the date, time, and route for your procession (at least 15 days in advance of the occasion), because you'll, obviously, need a police escort to assist you in impeding traffic while you parade worry-free (drinks and all). The cost for the police starts at $384.97 for the first (minimum) two-and-a-half hours and goes up; you pay that $384.97 whether you use them 2.5 hours or not. Your route and size determine the amount of police necessary, and for this, you will consult with a Special Event Commander. They will have you fill out two forms with your intentions, including who you have hired to clean up after you. You can find out more about police pricing at www.nola.gov/police-secondary-employment/pricing.
About that marching band (remember them?); if you go to gigsalad.com/music, you will find that there is a plethora of street-savvy brass bands ready to take on your group's event. They will range from $400 to $1,200 (and up) for an hour and a half (plus tip), depending on size, experience, and date of the adventure; again, more time means higher fees.
Okay, so here's the scene: say you and your entourage of 20 want to meet at Pat O'Brien's on St. Peter Street (for drinks), dance down Royal Street to Toulouse Street over to Chartres and across Jackson Square, and end up at Muriel's for burgers and more booze or a little further to Harry's Corner for just a throwdown. Swell, that's a 20-minute walk at most. Figure it will take at least an hour and a half. It's gonna be like herding cats to get from there to there. Alcohol, which many people want for this occasion (while making most of y'all more jovial) will slow things down more than a tad. You also need to consider whether you want to have all those accoutrements mentioned above, where, and how to get them. Did I mention that this will be a full-time gig to get your ship off the ground? It will be. You'll need two people: one who does all the running around and grunt work (get Cousin Vinnie), and the other who will hand over their Amex card and look the other way (Uncle Vito).
So now, face it, this is not something you want to subject yourself to; I mean, yeah, get Vinnie to do it and Vinnie will have a great story to tell, and you'll have someone who you know that you can blame for any of the components that go awry, of which there will be many possibilities. Orrrrr … call a company that handles these, and other, functions on an everyday basis. There are a few, and I randomly picked MustDoNola.com (855-353-6634) from the Destination Kitchen site and queried them.
I was told that because of the myriad of details that need attention to avoid mishaps, and the need to eliminate any level of stress, inconvenience, or confusion that may occur, PLUS the absolute necessity to have this occasion not only go off without a hitch, BUT to keep things as lighthearted and above all FUN for all involved, you NEED professionals who have knowledge and understanding of what it takes, how to do it, and how to be virtually invisible to all but the hosts of any event that they're involved in. These people offer to take care of every detail of any celebration, from greeting your people at the airport (with a band), to sending your guests out to the swamps on tours or to dump a body (just kidding), or in our case, organizing a second line parade through the streets of the French Quarter. They advise me that not only do they know how to spend a person's hard-earned, but also where they can save money and/or get the most bang for the buck.
So, my advice is: get the Amex from Uncle Vito, give it to Cousin Vinnie, and have Vinnie decide to either schlep it himself or "call some people." Relax, come on down to The Big Easy, have a few drinks at Pat O's, and act surprised and thrilled when all of a sudden, 20 of your closest friends show up with a band to take you to lunch, ya know what I mean? Who doesn't love a parade?