By Kristine Dickson | Mar 13, 2014
I am definitely not an extreme Mardi Gras go’er. I do enjoy attending one or two parades during the Mardi Gras season, but I am the type that if the weather looks like it won’t be sun-filled and warm, you’re more likely to find me at home catching up on work and relaxing, which is how I'm celebrating this Fat Tuesday. This puts me in the lightweight division as Mardi Gras followers are concerned. Come to New Orleans the weekend before Fat Tuesday and you will find many in the heavyweight division that seem to have the same motto as the US Post Office, “Neither snow, nor rain...nor sleet…” in their attitudes to missing out on a parade and long, big beads which are a type of currency in the French Quarter during the Mardi Gras season.
This Mardi Gras, I started and ended with one parade that was within walking distance of my house. Luckily, I live a short five blocks from the Endymion parade route as it passes through Mid-City. Preparing for Mardi Gras was fairly painless. Like I already mentioned, I am not a die-hard, so it's much easier for me. For the very serious die-hards, planning for Mardi Gras requires more strategy than a New Yorker planning for all the things they will need to get them through a typical day (gym, work, cocktails, dinner, etc.) much like the planning I used to do when I lived in NYC.
This year, I was happy to keep Mardi Gras simple and to have my nephew and his fiancé join me for the festivities. My preparations consisted of cooking jambalaya (okay, I’ll admit it was from a box mix) as I always do for Mardi Gras because it’s a pretty substantial meal, and it’s easy to pack up in Ziploc bags for later, spontaneous hunger. Before setting out on foot, I made sure we had the basic necessities as you never know where a day at Mardi Gras can lead you.
As I packed up my multi-colored striped backpack, we made sure we had each had a large cup with straws for our cocktails (the bottle of Jose Cuervo pre-made Margaritas were wonderful for this year), a generous supply of cocktail replenishment, our handy bags of jambalaya, plastic spoons, a roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, some cash, a credit card, a jacket for later if needed, and we were off. We set out to meet up with a friend of mine who lives even closer to the parade route (1 block away) which means we would have the most important Mardi Gras necessity at our disposal (no pun intended), the bathroom. This was by far the easiest Mardi Gras experience I have had in recent years. In fact, Mardi Gras die-hards would probably have little respect for those who can be ready to go out to a parade route in only thirty minutes, let alone get out to the parade only an hour before a parade, like we did, and we didn’t even bring chairs (scandal)!
After a twenty minute casual walk, we met up with my friend on the sidewalk as she was on her way to her house for a potty break, and she directed us to the large khaki tent set up on the neutral ground with a few other people friends already there. Boy, were we lucky! We had a tent, there were chairs, a bathroom nearby, and we even had a clear view of the parade when it came around our way.
In the midst of my cocktail refills, sitting in a chair that someone else carried out to the parade route, I looked around at everything and everyone and realized something I had never considered before, and maybe they themselves haven’t considered--that die hard Mardi Gras followers are extremely entrepreneurial. .
Here are some of the insights I gained while having a really fun time this year about why the die-hards, we'll call them, would make excellent entrepreneurs.
The Die-hards are:
1. Undeniably enthusiastic and passionate
Die-hard Mardi Gras fans won’t miss parades due to inclement weather. They brave the elements and love every single second of Mardi Gras, from planning to setting up to catching beads to going home and doing it all over again the next day. They camp out to reserve spots with the same intensity that fourteen year old girls have waiting in line to buy Justin Beiber tickets. They do this for many consecutive days in a row like it’s their job, and some even do this with kids in tow and build the next generation of die-hard Mardi Gras go’ers.
2. Are good at planning and process improvement
Die-hard Mardi Gras fans start planning weeks in advance for who is bringing what to the party--the food, alcohol, ice, beer, chairs, tent, and occasionally a personal port-o-potty. There’s parking and proximity to bathrooms (if there's no personal port-o-potty) to consider not to mention how to painlessly pack up and vacate after the parade. It doesn't take them long to get this process down to a science.
3. Not afraid of uncomfortable situations
Consecutive days of having your personal space invaded by strangers, sharing with bathroom with thousands of other people for several days in a row, taking as long to leave after a parade is over as it took to reserve that coveted spot, all while not complaining because uncomfortable situations just go with the territory.
4. Very patient
see #1, #2, and #3. They have one goal in mind—to have a great time and there’s no need to feel hurried about that. They know the key to having the great time is patience (a very Big Easy attitude).
5. Very creative
If you think Halloween is a good time, take a trip to Mardi Gras and see costumes that run from professional, labor-intensive masterpieces to homemade costumes made in the garage with pliers, sequins and duct tape. Your costumes are only limited by your imagination and the ease with which you want to use the restroom. (yes, it always comes back to that.)
6. Good at keeping their eye on the prize
Those beads, those doubloons, the coconuts, special cups, trinkets, ladies heels, and even toilet paper--the Mardi Gras Krewes each have their special throws and the Mardi Gras die-hards are ready to get on a ladder (or have let their kids sit on ladders) and do what it takes to capture their prizes. They yell as much as they can, waving their hands in the air, doing whatever it takes to get attention and get what they want.
7. Have a very social nature
Being in such close quarters with hundreds and thousands of strangers in your immediate vicinity for extended period takes some social skills. Go to Mardi Gras and you will talk to dozens of strangers before the day is over, whether you initiated the conversation for not. The die- hard Mardi Gras followers love this and love meeting the people who have traveled the farthest to experience Mardi Gras, and will be the first to offer their new "friends" a beer or something to eat. Mardi Gras die-hards become “neighbors” with the strangers sitting around them all day.
8. Find value in small things that add up to the cumulative big experience
Minute by minute as the die-hard Mardi Gras revelers set up their tents and chairs, wait for hours for the parade to start, enjoy each beautifully crafted float, absorb the beats of the marching bands, they relish each moment that adds up to the big payoff of why they do this every year. All the planning, patience, creativity, focus, and social contacts creates an experience that delivers a payoff that makes it worth doing over and over again, and year after year. Now, that's passion.