Sloan Column: There’s no Tuesday like Fat Tuesday
Looking to check attending Mardi Gras off your bucket list? This year you’ll have your chance. Well, sort of.
The good times will still be rolling on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, just not in person. The recent rise in coronavirus cases left Mardi Gras officials with no choice but to cancel all the live festivities, including the insanely popular parades. The only other time that’s happened was in 1979 due to a police union strike.
Rather than just shut thing down completely, however, organizers will be moving Mardi Gras online. No, it won’t be the same as the live version of the Carnival season’s grand finale that draws some 1.4 million visitors to Bourbon Street and the French Quarter every year, but it may allow viewers to capture a little bit of that larger-than-life party feel from down in The Big Easy. Better than nothing, right?
The three-night, four-and-a-half hour online spectacular called “Mardi Gras For All Y’All” will bring New Orleans’ signature celebration to the world. Grab your beads and beignets and binge watch the whole fais do-do on NOLA.com, theadvocate.com, YouTube, or on Facebook Live. NOLA.com says the event “will bring viewers close to the sights and sounds of Carnival, with celebrity interviews, musical performances and features narrating the history of the celebration and New Orleans’ unique culture.”
The program, scheduled to be shown Feb. 12, 13 and 14, will offer an insider’s tour led by a long “Who Dat?” list of celebrities, such as NBC “Today” show co-anchor Hoda Kotb, chef Bobby Flay, author Walter Isaacson, musician Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, actor Bryan Batt, political guru James Carville, and New Orleans Saints legend Archie Manning.
Here are some of the things viewers can expect to see:
• A visit with the renowned 149-year-old parade group Rex, which crowns the king of Carnival.
• The wickedly satirical all-female Krewe of Muses and the famed Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
• The Krewe of Armeinius, New Orleans’ largest gay Carnival organization.
• The MuffALottas, a dance troupe in the guise of saucy diner waitresses.
• A sing along with Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, the ever-funky George Porter Jr., and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
The broadcast will be repeated on Lundi Gras, Feb. 15, and Mardi Gras, which is Feb. 16 this year.
And if that’s not enough, there’s a “Throw Me Something Bacchus!” mobile app created by the Bacchus Krewe that will bring Carnival and New Orleans to the world.
According to Bacchus Captain Clark Brennan, the app gives users the ability to catch and collect virtual throws every Sunday during Carnival season. Players can create their own avatar, trade throws with other players, and even trade select virtual throws for actual throws. On Bacchus Sunday, Feb. 14, there will be a live stream of a parade with more than 1,600 Bacchus members virtually tossing their float’s signature throws and personalized throws. The app is already available for download for Apple and Android devices.
And if you’re looking to up your Mardi Gras game, there are at least a couple of local businesses ready to help you make it happen. Jazz on Dargan in downtown Florence is planning to hold its annual Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Party on Feb. 16. With live music, good times and great food, it will be a real bon fete. Pending city approval, tentative plans are for a parade and an outdoor tent to assist with social distancing.
The Lost Cajun restaurant at Florence Interstate Crossing, which opened in December, is planning a special menu that will include traditional Mardi Gras fare. You can be sure that King Cake will be among the offerings.
My guess is that Seminar Brewery and a few other establishments will also get in on the Mardi Gras party with celebrations of their own.
I’ve never attended Mardi Gras. I’ve never even been to New Orleans, for that matter. I do, however, have a Mardi Gras story. My grandma lived in Mobile, Ala. I remember she visited one time and brought me a bunch of beads and a purple and gold souvenir t-shirt that read, “We Don’t Hide Crazy. We Parade it Down the Street.”
A little crazy never hurt anyone.