First Time Parade Rider? Everything You Need To Know!

First Time Parade Rider? Everything You Need To Know!

As Mardi Gras season is ready to kick off this weekend, people from all over the country will flock to New Orleans to watch parades. If you are one of the lucky ones, you will be getting on a float and going for the best ride of your life! There is absolutely nothing like riding in a Mardi Gras parade – the excitement all year long, the festive events, and seeing that crowd! The adrenaline rush you get when the parade starts to roll and you turn the corner onto the main route is indescribable. I am going into my fifth year of riding with the Krewe Of Cleopatra, but have also ridden in Choctaw, Irish-Italian, & Irish Channel! I have loved every one of them and consider myself a pro now at how to prepare. If you are a first time rider or just want a refresher, here’s your how-to prep for parade day (and how to make the most of it!) guide.

Week Of Preparations

  • Make any last minute purchases a week out, because Prime hasn’t been priming lately!
  • A drink holder that attaches to the float is a wonderful item to have. This one is very reliable. On a similar note, you may not want to bring your very favorite cup on the float … they can get knocked or fall, so keep in mind that your treasured tumbler may not make it home.
  • Pro tip :: mouthwash cups are great for shots, if that’s your jam. Rum chata is the BEST ride pick-me-up, especially if it is chilly!
  • Do last-minute throw checks. Make sure you have enough to ride with, but you don’t have to go completely overboard. Time out your ride and have about 1000 pieces per hour to really maximize throwing. Taking home throws is terrible & no one wants to do it at the end of the day.
  • Make sure your costume is ready to go. This can include decorating it, buying blinking beads, glowsticks, etc. to wear on parade day, charging light-up shoes, and trying on things like wigs & headpieces to make sure you get it right on parade day. We have everything from custom shirts to cups to koozies! That’s one of the best parts!
  • Decide what you’re putting in your ice chest. Make sure you have water and food in there, and use the least amount of ice possible to keep things cool, it just makes the ice chests heavy & they tend to leak. Water leaking on the people below you or getting the floor of the float soaked is no fun. This year we are all using frozen gel packs instead of ice!
  • Pack your book bag. You will want a book bag for the day of the parade. I use that and a fanny pack, keeping things I want quick access to like my phone or lip gloss in the fanny and my survival kit in my bookbag. Be prepared for anything is the rule!

What Goes In Your Bag 

Bobby pins
Hair ties
Hand sanitizer
Hand wipes
Toilet Paper or Travel Kleenex
Anti Nausea Medication
Hand Warmers
Blunt Scissors
Portable Charger(s)
Zip Lock Bags
Clear Poncho

Packing my bag back in 2020

Things To Remember

  • It’s a marathon and not a sprint! This is the number one rule of riding in a parade. Anyone who has ridden can probably tell you tons of stories about themselves or people they know and the moment the day went wrong. Pace. Your. Self. If the parade is stopped, use that time to organize and eat – not to do Jello shots (trust me).
  • Remember to eat, especially if you are drinking. I repeat, do NOT forget to eat. You will be wrapped up in the day but not eating is sure to make you feel bad no matter what. Pack snacks in your book bag, eat a good breakfast, and bring – at minimum – a sandwich to eat while you are on the float. And, at least try to drink some water!
  • Even if the weather sucks, people will be on the parade route and they will be cheering you on. I have ridden in all different types of weather, and unfortunately, in February New Orleans is not known for the nicest weather. It could be cold, rainy, foggy, humid, warm, and everything in between. It doesn’t matter. Prepare yourself with the right items and have a blast!
  • Organize yourself before you ride. Once you get on the float, you will tend to be cramped tight, packed into the middle of bead bags. Take the time to unwrap all your throws from the plastic and discard of it properly before the float rolls. It will save you the headache of doing it while you’re trying to throw.
  • Be a polite neighbor. Try not to step on the people’s throws that will be next to your
    What a packed float looks like before you roll!

    spot. This is of course tricky, but you will have little room to move. That will change as you get organized and the parade starts to roll. If you have to go to the bathroom, take the easiest route possible. If you are riding near the bathroom or in the pathway to it, let people pass. It’s not ideal for anyone but being difficult about it does not help.

  • Keep track of how much you are throwing and how much of the parade is left. Especially at night, it can be hard to tell how much of the route is left to go. I always make this mistake no matter how many times I ride. I download the parade tracker now so that I can see where the first float is at to judge how fast we are rolling and if there are any issues. Make sure your friends download it too so they can follow along & be ready for your arrival! Don’t put your phone on the ledge and do NOT throw your phone, it happens way more than you think! (Also, do not wear your rings – you don’t want to risk losing them!)
  • If you have people coming out to specifically watch you, it always helps if they can make themselves stand out. Make a sign, have a long-handled net, a ladder, something to be easier to see. Floats can move quickly sometimes and it is LOUD when you are on there, anything that can help you see them is so helpful to hand out those coveted throws.
  • If your Krewe has custom-made throws, congratulations you have just been inducted into Glitter University! You will likely be finding it in your house till Easter, and I know you have spent SO much time crafting and creating. These throws are a big (and I mean BIG) deal to the crowd, I always try to give them to people who look like they’ll truly enjoy them. It’s so fun to give out something you came up with that signifies that year’s ride for you!
  • Enjoy the final ride on your float after the last trinket is thrown. Soak up the moment and the joy of what you just got to do! Mardi Gras is one of the greatest shows on Earth and you were just a part of it!
  • When you exit the float, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HARNESS!

L’aissez les bon temps rouler!

Dana Wattigney
Moving from Nebraska in middle school, Dana considers herself a New Orleanian 25 years later. She now lives in Belle Chasse with her husband Ryan, 12-year-old Mila, and 8-year-old Rex. As the Executive Director of the YMCA in her community, she is very involved in all aspects of family life. You can find her on the weekend doing DIY projects, cheering on LSU or the Saints, and spending time with her family. A lover of all revelry, there is no festival, concert, or event that she won't go to! Catch her with the Krewe of Cleopatra each Mardi Gras. She gets out of town with her kids as much as possible, they enjoy the outdoors, especially the mountains & the beach. Affectionately known as "Dana Dolittle" to her friends, you can expect her to have a random animal she is trying to help at any given time. Dana loves to write & says there are no topics off limits.


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