I have shared with you my love of everything New Orleans, especially my love of Mardi Gras. It is not a new found passion. No, it is a life long one. As a little girl, I watched float after float of gentlemen roll by and dreamed of experiencing a day in the life of a masked Mardi Gras rider. There was nothing I could imagine to be more exciting than being perched high above the revelers as I threw to them all of the trinkets their hearts could desire.
My first ride with the Krewe of Muses occurred during the first Mardi Gras of the post-Katrina era. To describe what that night was like is impossible. It combined something I had dreamed of doing my entire life with the emotion of a very grateful New Orleans community who thanked us continuously for riding. They weren’t just thankful for the throws we sent their way; they were grateful that we were a part of returning their lives and their city to normal. There was this moment. It was the perfect moment. I’ll never forget it. As our float pulled closer and closer to the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Napoleon, you could literally feel the excitement gaining steam. The moment we made the corner, and I saw the largest crowd I’ve ever seen jubilantly welcoming us into their Mardi Gras memories, tears sprung to my eyes. To be a part of this amazing and unique tradition is something so special.
That ride was eight years ago. Each year as I log on to pay my dues and order my beads, I wonder if this will be the year that it loses its luster. And each and every year as the big day approaches, I wonder how I ever thought it could. You see, our ride is more than four hours on a float. It is an entire day of connecting with amazing friends and celebrating the creativity and power of women. In a little over a decade the women of Muses have created a Krewe that strives to make an impact in the community as much as we do on the parade route. It’s a group of women who are as diverse and dynamic as any you will find. And in just two days, I’ll be spending the day being entertained and inspired by all of them!
At around 9:30am on Thursday, some of the girls who ride on my float arrive at my house greeted by mimosas and king cake. It is here where the beautification begins. Imagine a vanity topped with glitter shadows and false eyelashes, wigs and fishnets, boas and satin gloves. After all, you have to transform attorneys, CPAs, teachers, police officers, philanthropists and moms into goddesses. Once we are appropriately dolled up, we head downtown for lunch.
There is no more traditional a spot to celebrate lunch over Mardi Gras than at Galatoire’s. It is a place as filled with pomp and circumstance as Carnival itself. Our meal begins with the most delicious oysters en brochette (fried oysters that have been wrapped in smoky bacon). After a round of bubbly, we dine on filet topped with bernaise and local crabmeat that is paired with creamed spinach and soufflé potatoes. It is a meal truly fit for Carnival
How else would you go from Galatoire’s to the Contemporary Arts Center other than by way of a pedi cab parade? There is nothing more fun than to have a pre-parade before the pre-party leading up to the parade. While it can be a little chilly, it sure is fun to toss throws to happy tourists along our route. Our float comes together to meet outside of the CAC so that we can proceed into the pre-party together. As we walk in, we hope to impress the other riders and the judges with our always elaborate headdresses. You see, each float designs and executes their own headdresses. The winner of the contest gets to ride in the title float (the first float to ride) in the following year. Just two years ago, my float was selected and when they called out our name, I swear it sounded like a high school gym would sound if Justin Bieber walked into it.
At the pre-party we are surrounded by women dressed head to toe in glitter and sparkles. We dance and laugh and toast to another amazing year. And just at the peak of the madness, you begin to hear the whispers – “It’s almost time,” “They’re almost here…” There is no sound as electrifying as that of the sirens of the NOPD’s motorcycle unit. It is the sound that tells you that the show is about to begin. We are led out of the CAC and onto our floats where we are surrounded by the year’s throws. Led by the NOPD, our floats drive down Tchoupitoulas Street to make their way to the start of the route.
As the sun begins to set over the river and the day comes to an end, we know that our night is about to begin. At the start of the route, our parade has a mobile spotlight. No matter what float number you are assigned to, you can see that light’s brightness standing stationary in the sky. It becomes our North Star for the night. The moment we see it move for the first time, we know that our ride will soon be under way.
No matter how many years I’ve ridden, I still become emotional as our tractor starts its engine. It indicates that the magic is about to begin. Along the route we hear shouts of “A shoe, a shoe!;” “Throw me something sister;” “Hey pretty lady!” They become the soundtrack to our ride. There is nothing like seeing the excitement on a reveler’s face when you select him or her out of the crowd and hand them one of our treasured shoes. You can often hear their squeals for several blocks.
It is very much how I imagine Cinderella felt when Prince Charming found her in the crowd. And how fitting, that girl had great taste in footwear. Speaking of footwear (and yes, glitter), here is a sneak peak into my 2013 Krewe of Muses shoe collection. I spent hours glittering and trimming and bedazzling 30 shoes that have now landed in other people’s homes.
I hope that you are performing your best rain dance as you are reading this. In the words of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, “Don’t Rain on My Parade!” And in the words of the Krewe of Muses, “Happy are Those Who the Muses Love.”
As a more recent transplant my first parade was Muses, which was my welcome to New Orleans and started the excitement of the First and many future Mardi Gras seasons.
Alane, you are the lucky winner! Random.org selected your number, and I couldn’t be happier. Your story was truly special and a reminder of why we ride. If we can bring one ounce of happiness to someone who needs it, then we’ve done our jobs! I’ll get your email address and we can connect so that I can send you your shoe!!!
Oh my… thank you, thank you so much… That shoe truely touched my soul
I’ve always loved Muses and this year, I was blessed to receive a shoe! It will always have a special place in my home. The ladies were very generous! I”m looking forward to next year already!
My two (2) favorite parades are the most munificent: Muses and Tucks. The superkrewes are generous with their throws too, but not quite in the same way as my favorite two (2). Muses’ and Tucks’ throws are fun, eccentric, and whimsically appropriate. Grabbing throws at Muses and Tucks is analogous to shopping at ThinkGeek.com, one of my favorite stores for satisfying my nerdy, eclectic, and zany needs. C’mon, at what other parades can one expect to pick up a fashionable bracelet-style watch, a pair of boxers, a magnetic dry erase board with accompanying notepad, the holy (cooking) trinity in plush form, rolls of toilet paper, a stylish plunger or toilet brush, or a pair of toilet seat sunglasses? (I’ll give you a minute to reflect). No other krewes come to mind, do they? I didn’t think any would, and that’s because only Muses and Tucks toss such wonderful throws.
I’ve enjoyed numerous Mardi Gras, so I indubitably possess a list of favorite parade-going experiences. But don’t worry. I’ll only share two (2) of them. One was the first time some of my undergrad friends accompanied me back home and I had the pleasure of introducing them to their first Mardi Gras. I wanted them to experience all of Superkrewe Weekend including its implied unofficial start, aka the Krewe of Muses. Undoubtedly, we had to work nonstop to complete our assignments in advance, so for approximately 10 consecutive days, we were running on very little sleep. But we all agreed the trip (and the preparations) was well worth it, especially for me because not only did I have the privilege to watch my friends enjoy and delight in the Mardi Gras festivities (parades, balls, etc.), but I also planted and fostered their love of Mardi Gras. From the moment the first Muses float rolled by us and they caught their very first throws, they were bitten by the Mardi Gras-love bug…and I knew they were smitten. Plus, it was pretty fun to parade around campus the day after we returned and simultaneously boast about our parade swag and throw out our excess catches and throws.
My other favorite parade-going experience was the year the Saints won the Super Bowl. My friends and I created decorative signs asking krewe riders to throw us their signature throws if they loved the Saints or knew the Saints would win the Super Bowl, or if their football team just won the Super Bowl. Needless to say, riders generously bestowed us with their bounty, so much so that each of us left every parade with two (2) or more of each krewe’s signature throw(s)! And it was pretty nice helping the people around us catch their signature throws, beads, cups, dubloons, and novelty items. My friends and I agree that Mardi Gras kindness and camaraderie were at their zenith that year.
My favorite parade is Bacchus because my father rides in it and his best friends is one of the guys that runs it. It is a family tradition to always go to Bacchus, no matter the weather or even pregnancy. One of my favorite memories was when I was pregnant with my first son, I got on my husband’s shoulders to catch stuff from my godfather, who is the lead officer…my godfather handed me a big bag of beads and cups and he then proceeded to say “What the heck are you doing on his shoulders?!? You are pregnant…get down or I will stop this parade!” It was really funny at the time and everyone around us was cracking up laughing. We also love going to the Bacchus ball with all of our friends. I cannot wait for my sons to be pages on the Kings float in about 6 years!
Our favorite family parade is Iris…we have so many friends that ride in it and we just have a blast. I have only made Muses once and that was last year and I absolutely LOVED it. I had full intentions of bringing my family this year but I coach basketball and we had a game that night. We will not miss it again. I have a Mardi Gras set up in my house and I would love to add an awesome Muses shoe to it!
I haven’t gotten to go to the parades in the city yet. This is our first full Mardi Gras season but my favorite on the Northshore is definitely The Mystic Krewe of Perseus!
I love Muses! It is my favorite because of the great throws!
So weird, I’ve lived in the NOLA area my whole life, and I’ve never been to Muses, usually because of work. However, I do have a fond memory related to it. When my husband and I were “just friends,” he went to the parade and caught a special Muses bead (didn’t get a shoe) for me and gave it to me a few days later. Something told me then, that he might have something more than “friend” feelings. Maybe I should make it a point to try to go next year.
Jennifer, I’ve been meaning to tell you if I haven’t already … Muses was Thatcher’s very first Mardi Gras parade ever. We walked down to Jefferson to see my mom who was riding in the bathtub that year, and he saw his first parade, his first taste of Mardi Gras and received his first throws. I saved the goodies in his baby box, and my husband doesn’t understand why! Ha!
This is my first Mardi Gras so I don’t have a “favorite” parade yet. I glittered shoes with a friend this year who is also riding in Muses and hope to catch one myself this year! Muses sounds like a fabulous organization to be a part of. What fun and for a great cause! Throw me somethin’ Sister!!
Whatever parade is rolling in front of me would be my favorite!!!! I would love the opportunity to display a beautiful Muses shoe on my mantle with all my other Mardi Gras finery. It would have a place of honor all year long. Hope you have a wonderful ride.