And it is 70+ degrees outside!
And on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (and the entire Gulf Coast), that means it’s MARDI GRAS PARADE time!
Time to get out on the Parade route, hold up your hands high, and shout: “Throw me some beads, Mister!”
Several weeks ago, one evening after work when I was attending the birthday party of my maintenance co-worker, Chris G., one of Chris’s many friends in attendance, John Q., asked me if I was coming over to his place to watch the Orange Grove (North Gulfport) Mardi Gras Parade in early February.
I had gone over to John’s home two years ago with Chris, and another co-worker, Mark, to enjoy some good barbecue grilling, and then watch the parade then, which passes right by John’s home.
Although I have three home repair projects still unfinished, I didn’t schedule any volunteer work this Saturday so that I could go over to John and Denise’s home for some food, fellowship and Parade watching, the first of the 2009 Mardi Gras season.
I arrived over at John’s home at about 11:30am, wanting to get there before the Gulfport Police started blocking off the roads involved in the Parade route, and as it turned out, I was one of the first to arrive. What also arrived with me, was a pounding headache.
As I sat in my car, waiting for Chris and his family, I closed my eyes and tried to will the headache to go away, but that was a no-go. There was a slight breeze blowing through the car, with the temperature outside being around 70 degrees, a beautiful day for a Mardi Gras Parade.
About 45 minutes later, Chris drove in in his classic 1976 Cadillac Eldorado, which he recently purchased to restore, having several members of his family aboard, including his little boy, Mikie, age 4.
At that point, headache still on board, I got out of my car and joined Chris and his family members and we walked over to John’s carport where the picnic table and grill were, and to say hello to our host John.
John, a former See Bee veteran, became bound to a wheelchair about 3-4 years ago, after suffering a permanent spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident while visiting his wife’s relatives in Iowa. But the truth is, that really doesn’t slow John down much; he is a man on the go!
John and Chris’s family became acquainted several ago, when Chris’s wife, Rhonda, and John’s wife, Denise, met and became friends at Cub Scout meetings, when their boys were in the same Scout Den. The men became friends shortly after that, and Chris and his family then became Mardi Gras Parade day regular guests at John and Denise’s home from then on.
Shortly after we were welcomed by John, he fired up the grill and started cooking hot dogs and Italian sausages. John is not only a great host, but also a great chef at the barbecue! And Denise also cooks up a great pan of baked beans! More friends arrived shortly, and soon there were a dozen or two people gathered around John’s carport.
Out on the street Parade Route, more and more people were arriving, and the parade favors carts were moving up and down the street, hawking everything Mardi Gras, and then some.
Up and down the route, numerous pickup trucks were backed up to the edge of the road, ready to hold brightly-decorated parade goers in the pickup boxes, who would be standing and waving to the hundreds of bead throwers in the many festive floats that would pass by during the parade.
Just prior to the first float arriving at our viewing location, I brought over my four-foot stepladder from my car, and set it up about 20′ behind the sidewalk. Most of the parade viewers were either standing or sitting on the sidewalk, so, 20′ behind them, I had the area pretty much to myself.
Being up on the ladder a bit higher than most viewers, allowed me to take many images of the floats and viewers as they enjoyed the parade and bead throwing. And being that high also made me a good target for some of the throwers up on top of many of the taller floats.
The first beads that were thrown at me were by the Parade Queen, which I caught. When I gave her a thumbs-up sign and mouthed a Thank You, she smiled and nodded her head. That made my whole parade.
A lot of the beads thrown at me, went past me just beyond my reach. I did catch about a dozen of them, though, and that was plenty, considering I still have about a gunny sack full of the six bags I caught last February while in New Orleans with friends, at the Granddaddy of US Mardi Gras festivals.
Chris’s son, Mikie, caught lots of beads during the parade, sitting high on the shoulders of, first, his father, then on a friend. Most of the folks who attended John and Denise’s barbecue caught their share of beads, too.
Although the floats in this parade were generally smaller and less numerous than they are in some of the larger parades in the coast area, and much smaller than those in the giant Mardi Gras weekend parades in New Orleans, it was a very nice parade, on a beautiful afternoon, and those in attendance seemed to have an enjoyable time.
For the next two weekends, there will be more Mardi Gras Parades around here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, as Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras Day, February 24th, approaches.
I just hope that, like today was, the others also are harbingers of spring around the United States.