The year was 1992, and I was 10 years old and about to ride in my first parade as a tomato. I rode with my grandma on Mardi Gras Day in one of the very loud truck parades that rolls after Rex. Back then, each float had to decorate the outside of its own float. I have such fun memories of turning our big truck into a tomato patch, taking breaks to eat homemade red beans and rice curbside with the rest of our float. My grandmother and I sewed a billion bean bags to toss the crowd; who knew that all that sewing would turn out as future practice for building my own business?! We had such a wonderful time riding through the city, stuffed tomatoes perched atop our heads, tossing bean bags and Mardi Gras tchotchkes to families along the route. I will treasure those memories with my grandma forever.
Cue to present day, when an opportunity arose to ride with friends in the Krewe of Cleopatra. At first I was hesitant, not because I did not want to, but because it is a big investment of time and money to become a member of a Krewe and ride. There are membership fees to participate and then the investment into the Mardi Gras goodies to literally throw off a float never to be seen again. But the stars aligned, and I was all in. This ride would be different from my first ride; this one was with dear friends, and several of us from New Orleans Mom would be riding together! And let me tell you, should the opportunity to ride in a Krewe come up, you need to say YES!
Being a part of a Krewe is truly so much fun! There is so much that goes into the Krewe long before we roll down the Avenue: from the Ball to Family Float Day, to float load to the pre-party. The balls are truly spectacular and our Krewe certainly knows how to throw a good one; watching the court be presented followed by a mini parade inside the ballroom complete with a full marching band was a fun experience to share with my husband, friends and fellow members. We danced well into the night to the live band, our excitement building over our upcoming ride.
My girls had also been actively helping me sort through beads and organize throws leading up to Family Float Day. On this day, we went down to the den to pick up my costume and see our float up close and socialize with the Krewe. My kids loved being able to get on mama’s float and imagine what it would be like to ride. They pretended to throw beads from our float, and I think we are now raising a couple of future Krewe members.
As a lover of all Mardi Gras things with a full coveted collection of Muses shoes, Nyx purses, and Zulu coconuts, I knew I had to spend some time making the special Cleopatra throw: the glittered cups. On many late nights I could be found at my dining room table, covered in glitter making what I hoped would become a special item in another Mardi Gras lover’s collectibles. My husband is not nearly as impressed with the glitter takeover, but it’s par for the course, right? What is Mardi Gras without a little … or a lot … of glitter?
It was finally the day of our ride, and we were all so excited that it was finally here! We loaded a party bus or two with our float alone, and rode down to the pre-party at Generations Hall. The pre-party was rocking with DJs and food, and we spent a few hours dancing and mingling with the other floats, discussing fancy headpieces and tips from seasoned riders. We came out into the gorgeous sunshine to see our floats shining and ready for us to ride. Our DJ fired up the music, we organized our throws, and away we went.
Riding down the Avenue was truly magical! It was so special to be a small part of such a big NOLA celebration. From the pure joy on children’s faces to seeing our own families and signs made specially for New Orleans Mom, we loved every minute of it. Everyone is just so happy to be there, celebrating this event that makes New Orleans unique, from the smallest of babies all the way to the eldest of grandparents who have been doing this Mardi Gras thing for decades. Whether young or old, being a part of the Mardi Gras experience is a memorable one. I highly recommend joining a Krewe!