Tips, tricks for navigating Mardi Gras

Zachary Schultz, Breaking News Editor

New Orleans’ Carnival season is a time of unparalleled decadence and merriment. Mardi Gras is the fullest expression of the Big Easy’s let-the-good-times-roll mantra. However, what makes the season so enjoyable can overwhelm even the most experienced festival-goer. As a Carnival season veteran, I’m here to provide some tips and tricks that make that process easier. 

All parades are not created equal. Be selective! 

Although most first-time Carnival-goers want to experience the full breadth of the season in attending all the parades, the ever-expanding float lineup makes that goal unobtainable for anyone who has commitments — work, school, pets. It is important to be selective when it comes to choosing which parades to attend. 

The parade schedule is a helpful guide, but you should also take the time to research which ones are best suited to your taste. For instance, I am a lover of political satire, so Krewe de Vieux is always high on my list. 

Duck for cover! 

While the floats are well-lit, the crowds are usually not. As a consequence, it is not uncommon to see an unsuspecting bystander get hit in the face with a pack of beads. 

If it is clear to you that someone in your immediate vicinity knows a krewe member on a passing float, there are two courses of action: one, you can run for the hills until the float passes so as to avoid taking a cabbage to the face — this is the path of prudent people —  or, two, you can attempt to recover some of the treasured items that are thrown in the crossfire. 

An ice chest is akin to a treasure chest! 

Having a steady supply of alcohol on hand is a great way to make new friends, and it is also a sure bet for obtaining those treasured throws like signature beads, a Muses shoe or a Zulu coconut. In most cases, krewe members are willing to trade treasured beads for booze. 

Remember, these people board the floats with the intention of having no beads left by the end of the night, so they might as well have something to show for their charitable gift — and a cold one does the trick. 

Be safe and sensible! 

If someone disputes whether a prized throw was intended for them and you happened to catch it, the wisest course of action is to acquiesce and give it to them. 

These are cheap plastic items, people. They are not worth an altercation. I have seen these situations go from zero to 60 in a second, and it always ends badly for at least one party. 

Be aware of your surroundings!

No one believes they are going to be the victim of a crime during Carnival. The fun-loving atmosphere gives a false veneer of safety. Crime is a factor in most urban areas, and New Orleans is no exception.

Although the lion’s share of New Orleanians are fun-loving people, the rise in crime across the metropolitan area should not be ignored. Travel with friends and ensure that you remain in highly-populated areas throughout your time at the parades. 

Savor the moment! 

The 2022 Carnival season comes on the heels of last year’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic — one of just a few times since the Krewe of Comus rolled for the first time in 1857. Unexpected health emergencies like this should remind us all to live in the moment. To be sure, New Orleanians will likely do just that and party like this will be the last Mardi Gras. 

As Tulanians experience this amazing tradition themselves, I hope these tips and tricks will prove useful to getting the most out of Carnival while doing so in a safe way.