19 February 2006

The First Saturday of Uptown Parades: Pontchartrain, Shangri-La, Pygmalion, Knights of Sparta, and Pegasus

After securing an unreal parking spot on the corner of Prytania and Napoleon next to Sophie Wright School, we made it out to our usual spot on the corner of General Pershing and St. Charles Avenue for the "mega-parade" of five krewes. Usually we stand on the "sidewalk" side, but we opted for the "neutral ground" side yesterday. The circulated AP story described yesterday's parades (and the cable news blurbs that I saw this morning parroting that story verbatim) as "small, but enthusiastic." I'd say that's a fair account, but I don't think the "small" part of the description indicates any sense of alarm or worry as the crowds for this first weekend are traditionally smaller anyway. A misty, cold, windy, downright nasty day didn't exactly help either. In the two hours we were out on the parade route, the temperature dropped at least ten degrees.

Normally, the first Saturday of Uptown parades features a schedule of back-to-back day parades and then back-to-back night parades. The reason for the unheard of five-krewe bundled parade was two fold. The first reason was to minimize the impact on the all ready stretched-thin city-provided emergency services such as police, fire, and EMS. (The police presence was quite evident, by the way). Secondly, these particular krewes membership has been impacted by KTMB and weren't able to parade their usual number of floats. To try to encourage all krewes to participate this Mardi Gras season, the City of New Orleans waived the minimum float requirement and these krewes were allowed to parade despite their limited numbers of riders. And although there were maybe thirty-five floats and about eight bands combined, the parades did not dissapoint in my opinion. The quality of the throws and floats were to par--but the entire procession came and went within an hour and a half.

The highlight of the afternoon was not a particular float, but instead a band. Marching in the first spot of the first parade, the Krewe of Pontchartrain, was the MAX Band which features the combined school bands of St. Augustine, St. Mary's, and Xavier Prep. These three schools have merged for the time being at Xavier Prep as St. Augustine and St. Mary's were heavily flooded. At one point in a particular cheer, the cheerleaders held up a three sign with their fingers signifying the unification of the three schools. It was an emotional experience seeing them pass by.

Here are some visuals . . .


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