"I love your hat!" exclaimed Jo Ellen to Kate.
So began a conversation among Jo Ellen (second from left in the photo), her friend Fabia (far left), Kate (third from the left), and an unidentified fourth person as we waited for the Friday Night Mardi Gras Parade in Lafayette to begin.
The conversation focused on The Red Hat Ladies group she belonged to and on the subject of food and local restaurants. Jo Ellen and Fabia mentioned three restaurants that we will try to get to during our stay.
At some point, the transition to which is unclear to Kate, Jo Ellen mentioned that she is a widow, "...but I'm looking for a 25-year-old Chippendale dancer!" she noted with a laugh and a twinkle in her eye.
"I guess that makes you a cougar," Kate observed.
Pausing for just a moment, Jo Ellen responded with a laugh, "I guess it does."
With that realization, Jo Ellen and her friends wished us well on our travels and greeted other parade-goers who had arrived and were waiting to talk to Jo Ellen. She seemed like a person we would enjoy more time with.
Darkness had settled in as the parade began. We were just a few blocks from the parade's starting point, but the mem-bers of this band (photo 2 above) had already put in an energized performance.
Another indication of our position near the parade's beginning was the supply of beads on the floats (photos 3, 4, and 5 above). It got us wondering how riders "pace" their throws over the length of the parade.
Experience, we guessed.
The Greater Southwest Mardi Gras Association parade tonight was one of the city's nine major parades. It is estimated that the nine Lafayette parades usually draw a total of more than a million viewers and contribute significantly to the local economy.
Lafayette's first Mardi Gras celebration took place in 1897 with a mule-drawn float carrying the king and queen, seated on majestic thrones, through the streets of the city.
This was the third parade we had attended and the first one held in the evening. Being held at night, this parade presented a different kind of challenge for us. Not only was it harder to see some of the people throwing the beads from the darkness of the top level of some floats, but it was also harder to see the beads as they emerged from the darkness.
To these challenges add the final task of taking photos while trying to catch (or avoid) thrown beads.
We lost count on the number of krewes represented in this parade, and we did not take note of the names of the krewes that we saw. (We've realized that the only krewes that we could name were the ones whose names we happened to capture in one of the photos.)
But then along came the Mystic Krewe of Apollo de Lafayette. It was the last float, but the krewe made an immediate impression.
Apollo has established a reputation for splendor, creative-ness, and gaiety in Lafayette.
The krewe was certainly the most colorful of those in the parade and when we (uninten-tionally) added the flourish of movement and lights, the krewe became even more colorful and creative.
The purpose of this organization is to foster fraternal and social unity in the community. An additional purpose is to support, encourage and improve the gay community.
This krewe presented a theme that was coor-dinated, colorful, and impressive. Quite an immpact.
At the conclusion of the parade, we were again modifying our parade strategy. It seemed that members were throwing fewer beads early in the parade, so we planned to position ourselves further along the route of future parades.
Yes, these beads are becoming strangely important to us.