Thursday, February 08, 2018

Raining on my parades

It is Carnival time and the weather outlook is bleak. There isn't a date left on the parade calendar where there isn't at least some doubt as to whether or not people will be sloshing about in boots and ponchos.  If you are so equipped and hardy enough, it's usually not such a bad deal.  The parades look a bit messier but the crowds are lighter. If you can stay dry enough, it's possible to have a fine time.  This still doesn't stop some of the larger krewes from getting nervous.  So nervous, in fact, that some of them are talking crazy talk.
Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni said Wednesday that he has had queries from multiple New Orleans Mardi Gras krewes, asking if their parades could roll in Jefferson Parish if necessary. Multiple inches of rain, strong wind and thunderstorm are expected throughout the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

After buzz about possible rescheduling on Tuesday, New Orleans police announced that all parades would roll on their scheduled days, but times could be changed.

"I've had some discussions with a couple captains candidly, just saying that … 'if we had to move, could we talk to you?' I said 'we're open to anything,' " Yenni said in a press briefing. "I'd have to get with our sheriff's department to make sure we could accommodate that. … but if we can help put on Mardi Gras, we certainly want to do so."
Or maybe it's just Yenni talking crazy.  The krewe spokesmen all sound like they're cooperating with NOPD. Although, the "candid discussions" with Yenni might also be a bit of back channel brinksamanship over rescheduling.  Or maybe they're just looking to pick up some of that sweet JP moolah
Wednesday, the parish council voted to give $25,000 subsidies each to Caesar and the Krewe of Centurions.

"Some council members are choosing to give money directly to krewes that will help their efforts," JP Council member Jennifer Van Vrancken said. "One of the things that I do is support the Rhythm on the Route band competition. So my office helps fund all of the winners."

JP President Mike Yenni said taxpayer money given to the krewes is well worth the price when you consider carnival has a $24 million dollar economic impact on the parish.

"So for the small amounts of money that the parish council has allocated to these krewes, to kind of help them out on those prime nights and prime weekends, we're seeing return on that investment," Yennis said. "Hotel occupancy in Jefferson Parish is up to 90 percent."
We've talked at length about the problems of route consolidation already so I don't want to go too far into that right now.  Orleans Parish parades would do well to disperse away from the St. Charles route back into the neighborhoods to spread the celebration more evenly across the city the way it was once not so long ago.  The Jefferson Parish issue is an added layer on top of this, though, having to do with the white flight origins and lingering racial divisions between New Orleans and Metairie.  That dynamic is changing again in the era of gentrification. As the city becomes more desirable to wealthier whites, the suburban lifestyle is starting to change as well.  These trends are beginning to manifest in the Carnival calendar.

Anyway, we'll have to see how that develops in the future.  Right now we're more concerned with the rain since that is definitely affecting things.  It doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to ruin anybody's time entirely, though.  Often a little rain on a parade isn't all that bad. We've seen our share of it already and have come through pretty well. Here are some photos and stuff.

Saturday was touch and go for the five parades that rolled through Orleans Parish. Pontchartrain got off without a hitch.  Captain Sam is one of my favorite Carnival icons.  He and I are the same age and we both lived in New Orleans East for a time when we were younger.

Captain Sam

Also it looks like they've done away with the pretense of titling their royalty with roman numerals.  I guess I can get behind that.

Pontchartrain 43

I don't have any pictures of Choctaw or Freret. That's when the quagmire began. It was bad. And I felt bad. I had to go lay down for a while, frankly.  But somehow we rallied in time for Sparta.


Because the previous night had been a little too much about straight whiskey when it should have been about Miller Lite, Saturday had to be about Diet Coke when it also should have been about Miller Lite.  (This also may have something to do with being the same age as Captain Sam but never mind that right now.)  The point is, we watched Sparta and Pygmalion without drinking any alcohol.  Yes, it is perfectly fine to do this.

Let's see what pictures look good here.  The intermittent rain didn't make it easy.  Sparta had a Shakespeare theme of some sort. It looked very good. Here is their Taming Of The Shrew float. It had a big ol' pelican on it.

Taming of the Shrew

Pygmalion wants to be First Weekend Endymion.  (Tit-Dymion?  End-Mini-on?) This year its captain (some Rizutto or another.. Is it Jack or Phil?) cut some TV ads promoting the parade and ball as a major event.   That's not unheard of but it is unusual. Especially for a first week parade.  I'm not sure why they feel like they have to do this.  Are they worried about being eclipsed by the growing spectacle of Chewbacchus across town?  Anyway, it's funny.

The parade is fine. It really does look like somebody tried to make an Endymion but just didn't have enough parts. Maybe some day they will pull it off. The rain made this attempt appear less successful than it could have been.  Here is what I mean by the comparison.

These maid and duke floats are modeled on the long procession that Endymion typically begins with.  The riders are supposed to have big headdresses suspended from the rigging behind them.  But the rain must have messed that up Saturday.  Anyway you see what they did there.

Pygmalion Maids

They've also developed a couple of gaudy, led-covered signature floats.  The Jester here is a reference to the French Quarter daiquiri shops the Rizuttos also happen to run.


They try to bring in a lot of cool marching clubs as well. The Krewe de Lune is in either its third or fourth year now.

Krew de Lune

The theme was.. sea creatures or something... I forget. Here is a 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea float.  The floats in both Sparta and Pygmalion looked good despite the rain.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

It's actually a pretty nice parade. The wanna-be-Endymion air of it only makes it seems smaller by comparison.  In any case, both of these parades were fine examples of how persisting through a little rain can pay off.

Wednesday was an even clearer case in point. It rained so much during Druids and  Nyx that the Pelicans even had to stop playing their indoor sport. 

We are hosting out of town friends this week and these were their young children's first Mardi Gras parades. So the weather wasn't ideal.  But we are pros at this and as such we had spare ponchos for everybody. The right gear really does make all the difference.  There still isn't much I can do for my camera, though. So I only got a few phone snapshots. Most of them are bad. 

Druid tree of life

I did feel obligated to get a shot of their monument joke. It wasn't as bad as it could have been. But the subject is more than tired at this point.

Druids salute NOLA Tri- Centennial

Druids also offered commentary on the shorter Canal route. They're correct here. Maybe a little whiny and passive aggressive in tone. But still..

No Ioop

There was also the traditional, but subtle, knock at Nyx which you can see in this blurry photo if you want to click on it. It's just a purse with some big bills spilling out of it. It's a reference to Nyx's iconic symbol and the ongoing controversies over the grifter in charge of the krewe.  Here she is now on her Captain's float.

Julie Lea

As we have come to expect with regard to the "largest parading organization in all of Carnival" the problems with Nyx didn't have as much to do with the rain so much as they did with... being Nyx and doing Nyx things.
Crowds stationed around Magazine and Upperline streets got a bit more time to plead for hand-decorated purses after a float hit tree limbs on Jefferson Avenue, leading to a downed power line and a brief delay in the Krewe of Nyx parade, according to Entergy New Orleans and the city's emergency-preparedness department.

"A float came into contact with tree limbs," said Yolanda Pollard, spokeswoman for Entergy New Orleans, and the limbs fell onto a line servicing a single property on Jefferson Avenue, near the start of the parade.
Yeah yeah, it was a freak accident and could have happened to anybody. But for a self-proclamed "superkrewe" that always ends up being a little too big for its britches, not quite fitting an oversized float down an Uptown street is a little bit too on the nose as a metaphor.

We experienced the delay as an extended gap in the parade which is kind of a rare thing these days and so kind of nostalgic.  Here is the back of the parade catching up.

Parade approach

Due in part to the power line incident and to the weather, Nyx ended up being kind of a wreck; delays between floats followed by very large floats going way too fast through the rain to try and catch up, that sort of thing.  The typical Nyx problem of too many floats with no bands or marching units between them was in evidence again this year.  Toward the back end, it starts to feel very much like a truck parade. 

There's nothing wrong with a truck parade, of course, especially when, as is the case with Nyx, everybody seems to know one or several of the riders.  That plus the light crowd makes for a prime opportunity to catch pretty much everything.  The first-timer children in our group enjoyed the hell out of that. One can even appreciate the chaotic atmosphere of watching a parade struggle not to fall apart.  Which, really, is the most appropriate way to celebrate during a thunderstorm anyway. Nyx might not be the Prime Time event it bills itself as. But, for this year, anyway, it might be the model for pushing on through the weather for the other superkrewes to emulate.

Sign of the purse

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