For years my mother has wanted to attend the Mardi Gras parade.
Not the one in New Orleans, which I would actually understand more, but the annual celebration in Burlington, Vermont.
I suppose at least it’s closer than New Orleans.
So on March 2 we decided at the last minute to drive up. We both had a little cabin fever and the weather looked like it was going to cooperate, so we figured why not.
Downtown Burlington was hopping when we arrived. Men on stilts, drumming bands, cross-dressers, pirates and lots of beer tents full of college students.
Feeling seriously under-decorated, we each purchased an overpriced (“It’s for a good cause,” the girl proclaimed although I’m unsure exactly which cause.) string of beads with a beer logo medallion and headed to the parade route.
A half hour before the parade started, the sidewalks were filling up but with some strategic elbowing and shuffling we found a spot where only a line of short children separated us from the floats.
(Later I was extremely grateful for the line of defense those kids provided.)
The parade started with a costumed mayor of the city leading the way, followed by a marching band.
Things went to hell with the appearance of the first float, though.
While I was familiar enough with Mardi Gras festivities to joke that my mother was going to have to show her boobs to get goodies, I wasn’t prepared for what really happens.
Things started flying into the crowd. Beads, candy, plastic bubbles with rings in the them, t-shirts, travel mugs.
And everyone standing around us had their hands in the air, screeching as loudly as they could.
The woman right next to me was whistling so shrilly that my ears are still ringing.
A guy on one of the floats couldn’t get the tag off a tangle of beads and threw the whole bunch of them, at least a couple of dozen strands, over the top of our heads. The commotion that ensued practically toppled both my mother and I over.
As the parade continued, the frenzy grew. You would have thought they were throwing real gold from those trucks.
Somehow my mother managed to catch one strand of beads, even though she was standing next to a woman with the longest arms I’ve ever seen.
She also found a ring on the ground that the wild pack of children missed somehow.
Me? I was too busy ducking to catch anything. Although a piece of candy did hit me in the face and when I took off my scarf later it fell to the floor. Does that count as a catch?
It only took three or four floats for me to decide that the Mardi Gras parade wasn’t for me.
I’m just not a fan of standing in a screaming crowd having junk thrown at me.
I kept thinking, “Someone is going to lose an eye and it’s probably going to be me.”
But we stayed until the end and my mother seemed to get as much of a kick out my cowering as she did the parade, so at least she had fun.
I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans, to explore the music, the history, the food. And I thought Mardi Gras sounded like a great time to experience all the city has to offer.
But after my Burlington Mardi Gras encounter, I think I might find a more quiet time to travel south.