It was a dark time growing up without king cake. I grew up in a time before Mardi Gras came to Baton Rouge. I’d heard about it as a kid and family friends would bring me exotic, glamorous beads from a far off place. As a child New Orleans seemed much further away than 90 miles and it was so foreign to where I lived. Even the accents of the people from there sounded funny.
That first experience didn’t happen for me ’till I got to college. My parents remained Mardi Gras virgins. But at some point in my young adulthood, a small parade began in the shadow of Louisiana’s huge phallic State Capital. Sure, it was a bunch of drag queens that liked to dress up and parade down the streets of the town’s oldest neighborhood, Spanish Town, but it was a parade. That little parade grew and grew and last year 100,000 came to catch the beads, or condoms, or white bread or whatever was being thrown off the homemade floats.
It is appropriate that a parade grew up organically in the shadow of Louisiana politics. It’s the honoring of our corrupt and crazy political history that makes the parade so fun. Add sexual overtones to it all and it is a day that is so fun and hip and cool that Baton Rouge can only sustain that level of intensity for the day of the parade. The Spanish Town parade doesn’t try to be a big and glitzy New Orleans parade with it’s imported celebrities. The celebrities that are at the Spanish Town parade are likely to be the infamous politician who just got out of jail. The floats look homemade because they are. Pictures are stapled to the sides that someone downloaded and printed on their office printer when the boss wasn’t looking. The paint is barely dry on others because they were hastily put together with a keg and an all-nighter.
Even the colors are different. Instead of the traditional purple, green and gold, flamingo pink is the color that rules the day. People dress in the ir reverence of the parade spirit and of course in pink. You can’t be too pink or too tacky. That drag queen spirit is still present in the deep marrow of the costumed revelers. Families are welcome, but this is an adult parade with pink penis popsicles sold by the same vendor selling pink cotton candy.
The hightlight of the parade is the lawnmower brigade—the Krewe of Yazoo. They parade like a marching band, but they’re all pushing their lawn mowers. And each year they have a choreographed performance. Last year they were zombies performing “Lawn of the Dead” to the music, Staying Alive. My favorite past performance may always be when they were the Mow-donnas.
The Baton Rouge Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade, a day of hilarity and friends and eating and drinking. It’s all the things I love about living here, all wrapped up with a big pink bow—just don’t ask where that bow has been!
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