Thursday, March 17, 2011

Those Mardi Gras Beads

Today we wrap up our coverage of Mardi Gras parades and activities.

One of the parades we attended in Lafayette had an unnounced "pre-parade." Before the crowds arrived, several vendors passed along the parade route, their carts filled with colorful items that we didn't know we needed.

After several unsyn-chronized passes among the small crowd at the parade's point of origin, the merchants headed to another route, this time in a somewhat coordinated procession.

Many of the parades featured brilliant colors in the floats and costumes, so these sneakers of a parade-goer fit right in.

After attending the first two parades, we realized that the desire to collect beads being thrown from the floats was becoming quite strong. So, in an effort to attract attention--and beads--we took the better part of one day to make the signs below, using the colors which had been given meaning by the 1892 Rex Parade theme "Symbolism of Colors": purple (representing justice). green (faith), and gold (power). (I don't like using "Philly," but construction time and poster size dictated the use of the unflattering home city name.)

So, we were now ready to have even more success--visitors playing up to the host cities. However..., the Lafayette parade we attended was held at night, so the sign was not easily read. (Another parade goer did come by to ask us what hotel was near Franklin Field, since they wanted to attend the Penn Relays. Assessment: effective sign, for the questioner, but not for increasing our bead-gathering .)

The sign referring to Iota was not used, since we did not attend that parade on Fat Tuesday. The forecast called for "high winds, thunderstorms, with the possibility of large hail." Since a tornado had just touched down three days earlier five miles from our campground, we were a bit cautious about venturing out, so we opted to stay close to the RV.

And the third sign. We had taken the sign with us to Church Point, but no sign was necessary, since we were two of only six people who were standing along a road leading around the countryside before the scheduled parade. As the floats passed, riders began tossing beads. With no competition, we received many beads without the assistance of signs.

So, using only smiles and waves, we collected quite an array of beads. Kate, the masked Mardi Gras partier, is shown wearing a commenorative t-shirt (a "throw" from a krewe) and some of the unique beads. The pile of beads in front of her was collected over the course of five parades.

Looking back on the five days, we found that collecting beads had become the primary reason for attending the parades and for quickly overlooking the krewe names, the appearance of the float, and the details of people, music, and costumes. It even surpassed the objective of photographing the whole experience.

Being singled out by a person throwing the beads to receive a special item is exciting, grabbing a strand of beads thrown high overhead is exhilarating, and collecting more than others near you fills one with a sense of accomplishment.

Returning to the RV and emptying the day's collection was not unlike the review by a child of his/her collection of candy and other treats after an evening of "trick-or-treating."

And like the thrill of seeing the one-pound Hershey bar in the Halloween bag, the sight of these rare medallions in our "haul" was wonderful.

Then came the question: "What do we do with all these beads?"

Wonderful news. The Lafayette Association for Retarded Citizens (LARC) has a program that answered the question.

The Beads-N-More store (above) accepts donations of Mardi Gras beads and "throws." In the workshop, the workers sort the beads, re-packaage them, and sell them for next year's Mardi Gras. What a great idea.

Feeling great catching the beads and feeling great when giving them away--awesome.

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