A parade watcher dresses up in bright colors as he waves to catch beads in the upcoming decorated float. The Krewe of Mid-City contains three parades running back to back throughout Uptown New Orleans March 22, 2014.
With Mardi Gras rearing its peacock-feathered head in the coming weeks, students are gearing up to make the trip down to New Orleans for the pre-Lent blowout, a promise of dense crowds and thousands of bead necklaces.
Comprised of an audience stretching down the French Quarter, standing elbow-to-elbow, the annual parade is reserved for those who find stimulation in high-octane forms of festivity.
The celebration will take place in various parts of the city—including Uptown New Orleans and the French Quarter—throughout the week before Lent, but predominantly on Feb. 17, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday.
Not everyone is looking to celebrate in the Big Easy, however. Some students prefer quieter, less crowded venues for merriment, resorting to small gatherings of close friends or family, or taking part in their hometown’s version of the New Orleans events.
Such alternatives are considered by many to be safer ways to have a good time during Mardi Gras’ short season.
Blake Meranto, a junior nursing major, said he enjoys celebrating with his family at the Nereids Parade in Bay St. Louis.
“I think that this is way safer and easier than a New Orleans parade because there is more space, which makes it less crowded,” Meranto said. “Plus, it is a more kid-friendly environment. I feel that New Orleans parades get out of hand due to alcohol and large populations.”
The 48th annual Krewe of Nereids Parade begins on Sunday at 1 p.m. and is free for spectators.
Online sources such as the Gulf Live blog, which has a complete detailed list of Mardi Gras parades in Mississippi this season, also have information on where to go for local festivities. Notable parades in Mississippi include the Gulf Coast Carnival Association Parade in Biloxi and the Krewe of Gemini Night Parade in Gulfport, both of which will take place Feb. 17.
Another student-recommended alternative to the New Orleans parades is the Krewe of Selene Parade in Slidell, Louisiana, which is home to freshman therapeutic recreation major Bethany Vicknair.
Vicknair also said that celebrating in New Orleans does not have to be dangerous and difficult.
“I feel it is safer to go with your whole family or a big group of people,” Vicknair said. “On Mardi Gras day, my family and I will usually go to the New Orleans or Metairie area and attend the parades there all day long. Although it can sometimes be a hassle to lug coolers, chairs and tents across Lake Pontchartrain, it’s a very fun time once everything is set for the day.”
When asked about their usual methods of celebrating, other students answered with the quick and easy suggestion of getting together with friends and throwing a small party.
Though this may not have the same kind of appeal as heading to New Orleans for a day or two, many people who prefer milder settings find this type of gathering far more suited to their proclivities.
Now is an age in which introversion is a normalcy, since social media and the Internet at large have made it easier for self-identifying introverts to interact with others; no one will raise an eyebrow if you tell them you would rather kick back or even hit the books during Mardi Gras.
Most importantly, there is no shame in finding safer ways to celebrate a holiday. Safer, after all, does not mean lesser.