Christmas movies often contain lines about the true meaning of that holiday and how the spirit of it is the most important aspect. There aren't many Mardi Gras movies out there, but the characters in such a film would surely have a similar moment of reflection. Before that Mardi Gras movie gets made, let's talk to locals about what Mardi Gras means to them.
"For me, Mardi Gras is my life," explained teacher and Where Y'at contributor Kimmie Tubre. "I was born during the season and have only missed two Mardi Gras since. Both times, I was out of the country. I must say that missing Mardi Gras was pretty difficult for a NOLA girl like me."
Even those who found their way to New Orleans later in life feel that Mardi Gras is an integral part of their year and their life. Randy Traylor, Professor of Motor Vehicle Technology at Delgado Community College, has fully inserted himself into the old traditions of New Orleans Mardi Gras.
"I'm not a native New Orleanian, but I feel like one now, after living here since 1978. Mardi Gras is awesome!" Traylor said. "What a great adventure in a beautiful city, with family, friends, neighbors, and, of course, new friends every year enjoying the great festivities: parades, people, food, beverages, and the main event—Endymion."
Traylor has lived on the Endymion parade route since 1980, and he definitely makes sure to claim a spot right outside of his house every year, even though he doesn't watch the parade himself.
"You always meet the same people every year and a lot of new folks the Saturday before Mardi Gras," he added. "I have not seen the parade from my house in almost 30 years, though. I have been fortunate to be a krewe member in Endymion for this long and ride in the parade every year—the smiles and crowd noises, dancing in the streets, people who come from all over the world to see 3,000 krewe members bearing gifts. The celebration will be missed this year, but we will be ready next year. I love it!"
Another float rider and life-long Mardi Gras enthusiast, Vee George, is proud to say that she has celebrated Mardi Gras and helped others to do so for decades. She explained, "I am born and raised in New Orleans. For the past 16 years, I have been running the parade stand for the disabled residents and for individuals with disabilities that would come into our city. I maintained that stand for the city of New Orleans that sat across from Gallier Hall. Needless to say, I've been at every parade for work for the past 16 years and have enjoyed it and have made Mardi Gras a beautiful experience for persons with disabilities.
"For the past six years, I was in Nyx. I absolutely loved the sisterhood that Nyx brought. I just love the whole atmosphere of Mardi Gras. I go to several balls and parties with Zulu, Orpheus, Endymion, and Nyx."
After a controversial statement made by the captain, Julie Lea, George left Nyx, as so many other once-faithful riders did. She stated about the mass exodus, "Not being in Nyx is a huge loss, and it's a big division for us to go into three different organizations like we have. This Covid situation is not helping. I'm the person who goes anywhere and tries to talk to everybody. For us not being able to be that type of social, it's very tough. As much as I love Mardi Gras, and it has been a part of my life since birth in so many ways, I do believe it is the absolute best call to cancel parades."
In addition to spectating and riding, there are many proud and long-running walking/marching krewes that get to experience Mardi Gras in a different way. Michael Anding of the Lyons Club, established in 1946, marched as the krewe's Grand Marshal in 2020. The Lyons Club parades between Zulu and Rex every Mardi Gras day.
He explained his take on Mardi Gras: "As a native New Orleanian, I have grown up experiencing Mardi Gras in the streets of the city. I couldn't imagine it any other way. From the costumes and music to the friends and family, the joys and jubilation abound. It's a time of year when troubles are put to the side and our community comes together, with dancing in the streets and brass music at any intersection. I've been a member of the Lyons Carnival Club for eight years now and am the vice president of the club. We strut our stuff up and down the streets, waking up the neighborhoods Uptown early Mardi Gras morning before making our way to St. Charles, where we pass by the grandstands, and down into the Quarter, where we continue our festivities into the night. From gifting throws for cheek kisses to waltzing in the streets with strangers, late-night parties and extravagant balls, food that never ends, and friends and family all around. I love Mardi Gras!"
Mardi Gras will not be the same in 2021 as in most years past. There will be no parades, no lavish balls, and some krewes have even chosen not to name a new court. However, the spirit of Mardi Gras will live on in the hearts of those who always celebrate it. Much like those sappy holiday movie lines, Mardi Gras is all about loving one another.