Beads, Beer and Boobs

Maybe nineteen years ago, Saturday’s weather would have really put a crimp in the party, but Soulard’s Mardi Gras has grown well beyond that now. Saturday had temperatures in the thirties, plus a wicked north wind. The parade used to wind its way through Soulard’s narrow neighborhood streets, but now just marches down wide Broadway. I don’t think that any city loves a parade as much as Saint Louis does and the Mardi Gras parade is one of the favorites.

To view the parade, Gary had a pair of folding ladders between which he laid a plank. This allowed us to wait until the last-minute inside their warm home, rush out the half black to Broadway and still get a great view over the intervening heads. The parade is really all about beads, shiny multicolored beads. There are only a few floats in the parade, the pictured Jaws one being an exception and not a single school sends a marching band. What passes as floats in this parade are really just flatbed tractor trailers. Typically, the krewe manning the float erects a grandstand for their members on top of the flatbed. These rolling constructions and their strolling attendants are really just mechanisms for the purveying of beads. Thousands of beads are tossed during the parade, enough to choke an able bead grabber, or at least risk neck injury once fully donned.

So we’ve talked about beads enough, now about the beer and boobs. A fair amount of drinking is involved with Mardi Gras and as an event it has many adult themes. We first discovered this many years ago, when we took our still young boys to a Mardi Gras parade. We were still relatively new to Saint Louis then and naively expected the Mardi Gras parade to be just like all of the other ones in town, good family fun. We were wrong. We quickly realized this. We held up for a while, at the foot of the reviewing stand and mainly because that is where all of the cops had congregated. We beat a hasty retreat that year, but not before the boys were exposed to an educational experience.

Back then there was a steady trade between beads and boobs. The crowd would yell beads to the passing krewes, who in turn would yell boobs, as in show us your boobs and we’ll throw you our beads. That worked then, but since then beads have become way too ubiquitous to support such a market. Enter the new coin of the realm, Jell-O-shots. They are actually easier to toss than beads, or so I have observed. I have also observed that business is bullish.

Saturday featured the Soulard Mardi Gras parade. Soulard’s Mardi Gras celebration purports to be the second largest in the county, second only to New Orleans’. Biking buddies and Kaldi’s team members, Gary and Linda threw their 19th annual Mardi Gras party. Friday night’s rain lingered long enough into the morning to dissuade us from cycling to the parade and their party. We drove as close as we could get a parking place and walked the last mile and a half.

Soulard is Saint Louis’ French quarter. Nestled close to the Mississippi and lying in the shadow of the brewery, Soulard is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Saint Louis. Most of its old row houses were gutted and then completely rehabbed, starting in the eighties. Gary and Linda’s home is one such house.

Leave a Reply