Essentials (and Optionals) for New Orleans’ Carnival Season
Carnival season in New Orleans is now in full swing, and this past weekend the high profile parades began rolling. So if you’re planning to roll into the city this week for the “big dog” parades, here are a few things I’ve found, after a few years of being here, that are must-haves (along with a few optional items) for proper participation in the season – and beyond, as they also happen to be essentials for the spring festival season that’ll be on its way soon.
First on the list: The ubiquitous New Orleans folding chair in a bag.
Every New Orleanian owns at least one of these chairs – and likely one or two more for visitors. They come in handy all year round for the various outdoor music performances, but are a necessity for setting up along parade routes. Available here at all sporting goods and even grocery stores. Handily, the chairs have cup holders – no need to bring a cup. You’ll get one tossed to you soon off a float.
Second: A tarp or ground cover.
You can place your chair directly on the grass, but since we are a rainy clime, there’s a good chance the ground will be wet on any given day you are out. The tarps not only protect your bottoms, if you don’t happen to have a chair – or need to stretch out and lie down – but it’ll keep your chair from sinking into muddy ground.
Third: A rain poncho.
Last year I sat out in a cold drizzle at my favorite parade (Muses). I was very thankful (and I don’t even know why I thought to bring it) that I happened to have a disposable rain poncho in the car. It made a big difference in keeping me somewhat dry, at least (also helps keep you warmer when the wind starts blowing). Being soaking wet besides freezing is just too much.
Fourth: A pair of comfortable walking shoes.
Attending any Carnival parade or springtime music festival requires a good deal of walking. Parking near where you want to settle eventually, is pretty unlikely. And by the time you arrive at the Fairgrounds where Jazz Fest is held, a lot of walking is involved. A caveat – you’ll want the comfy shoes to not be too new at the Fairgrounds, as they it can get quite muddy there. Younger folks, not yet experiencing achy joints, often buy a pair of flip-flops just for Jazz Fest, then toss them afterwards.
Lastly : Sunhat and sunscreen
Most of the Carnival season parades are at night, but there are daytime ones. By the time we hit French Quarter and Jazz Fest, sun protection is essential.
The following are not essentials, but optional items you’ll find lots of people bringing along:
– for carrying along something to warm you on those cold evenings.
A big ice chest on wheels:
– if you’re rolling with a group.
– for all the Parade swag you’ll be catching – yeah, everyone does it, no matter how much you have from the last parade. It’s just part of the fun. Of course, if you’re near the end of the parade route, inebriated crewe members will start tossing out the bags they have for storing their throws to the crowd, even better – full unopened bags of beads.
Laissez les bontemps roulez!