Curious George's Mardi Gras Questions

After my last post on Mardi Gras, one reader e-mailed me with a ton of questions!

> As I’ve never been to Mardi Gras I am curious they consume
> much alcohol and what is the drink of choice?? What do they eat and
> what are the favorite dishes?? How much is a room overlooking the
> parade for a day or a week?? What is going on at 7a.m. in the
> morning?? Do they eat breakfast or do they not and just consume more
> tomato-spice-and celery beverages?? These are all questions that MUST
> be answered somehow!! yours truly…george

And Meps answers…

Yes, there is a heck of a lot of alcohol! Since they do not have open container laws, it’s all out on the streets, legally. Mostly, people are walking around with huge plastic cups full of beer, hurricanes, or daiquiris. They even have daiquiri drive-ins, where you can drive up, get a huge alcoholic drink in a plastic cup, and drive away. It’s sort of like an alcoholic Slurpee (TM). The driver is not *supposed* to be drinking it, but what’s to stop them? Surprisingly, Louisiana’s alcohol-related traffic fatalities are not that much higher than other states.

On Mardi Gras day, we saw evidence of lots of barbecues, so the food is mostly southern fare. The folks in some of the poorer neighborhoods don’t have backyards, so they either put the grill in the front yard, or, if they live on a boulevard, sometimes they even set it up in the median! I suspect those are families where some members live on both sides of the street, so it’s convenient to all that way. Every party also has a king cake — it’s the last chance to eat king cake until the following Epiphany, on January 6th.

Rooms around the French Quarter aren’t that expensive during Mardi Gras, but all the reservations are usually booked over six months in advance. You can get a room at the Parc St. Charles on the parade route for $200 on Monday, February 27th (Lundi Gras) — the same room on Tuesday night is only $100. According to an article just released in Smart Money magazine, right now, the hotels are hit or miss. Those that are housing recovery workers are booked and can charge (the government) whatever rates they want to. The rest are offering substantial discounts to lure tourists back to the city, since tourism accounts for $5 billion per year in business and 81,000 jobs.

At 7:00 in the morning on Mardi Gras day, people are getting out to the parade routes, because the Zulu parade, which has the best costumes of all the parades, starts at the ungodly hour of 8 am. There are restaurants in the French Quarter where you pay $200 to hang out and eat and drink all day. They start with a breakfast buffet, drinks, then lunch buffet and drinks until the end of the day. If the restaurant has a balcony, you take turns standing out there, tossing beads to people who will show you their naughty bits.

At midnight on Mardi Gras day, police on horseback followed by street-sweeping machines literally sweep everyone off the street, and the following day, Ash Wednesday, everyone recuperates. School and work do not resume until Thursday. It is truly a local holiday, with everyone getting at least two days off work.