A Survivors Guide to Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is not a spectator sport. It is not something that you go to; it is something that takes hold of you. It is more than a party; it is a feeling, a state of mind. That being said, don’t take Mardi Gras lightly if you have never done it before. Most people feel like it will be like a couple nights out at a college bar, when it is more like being teleported into a pleasant, yet equally anarchistic version of Lord of the Flies with full grown adults that have 24/7 access to a tiki lounge for a week. Although an undeniably unique and fun experience, Mardi Gras will wear down even the wiliest veteran. I compiled this list of a few things that I have learned to make a part of my Mardi Gras survivor kit. These are only a few suggestions and the list goes on and on. I hope this will help you on your mission to catch the most beads, dance the hardest to the sweet sound of NOLA brass and still make it to the Zulu parade on Tuesday morning.
Comfortable Shoes
The single most important part of your Mardi Gras survival kit is comfortable shoes. Grab yourself some 100% cotton socks that will keep your feet dry and reach for your most trusted pair of running, walking or hiking shoes that will help keep your feet warm, dry, and comfortable. On this journey for Mardi Gras glory, you will walk from spot to spot to meet up with friends, get lost on scouting trips for the nearest bathroom, and jump up to nab beads out of the air like Jimmy Graham in the end-zone. Your feet will be taking a beating. Mardi Gras is far from a fashion show, despite what the noob in the Perlis rugby shirt is trying to tell you. You’re going to look like you haven’t slept in 5 days in all of your photos, anyway. You might as well be comfortable.
Emergency Snacks
Snacks, you love snacks. Well load up on your favorite calorie-packed guilty pleasures, shove them in your pockets, bookbag and anywhere that you have spare space. In all honesty, you will not be eating a lot during Mardi Gras celebrations and odds are that after 6-8 hours of parades, you will fall asleep before the Domino’s delivery guy makes it to your house. You will be a much happier person, a much healthier person and probably the most popular person among your friends if you can keep yourself relatively nourished during the long days and nights of Mardi Gras.
Fanny Packs and/or Under the Clothes Money Belt
Like I said, Mardi Gras is far from a fashion show. It is all about comfort, and in this particular case, it is also about safety. A fanny pack is a great way to keep things from falling from your pocket while you jump up and down and move through crowded areas where you may bump into people. More importantly it has a zipper that closes and it stays in from of your body. Keeping your things where you can see them is very important at this time of year. Although I would like to say that everyone is along the parade route for some good, old-fashioned New Orleans fun and tradition, there are also people who would just as easily have fun putting your brand new iPhone up for sale on craiglist. For the guys who feel like they just can’t pull off the fanny pack look, try this: pull one strap over your shoulder and the other one under your armpit so that the bag is across your body and pull the fanny pack under your shoulder. As Alan in The Hangover would say, “It’s where I keep all my things. Get a lot of compliments on this. Plus it’s not a purse, it’s called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one.”
Smart additions to your Fanny Pack: Toilet paper or baby wipes, hand sanitizer, water, first-aid essentials, a plastic sandwich bag in which you put a paper with emergency contact numbers and your contact information in the event that you lose your “satchel” and an honest person finds it.
Backup phone charger or Mophie Case
There are a lot of tips for making your phone battery go the distance. Turn off GPS, turn off wi-fi, turn down the screen brightness and don’t use it to check the time. These are just a few great tips, but let’s face the music. Despite your best efforts, you will find yourself separated from the group in an unfamiliar place, with no cash or ID because you let your best friend hold your wallet and you will look down at your phone and click the home button to unlock it. Then you see it: that dreaded photo of a battery and an arrow indicating that you should connect it to a power source. Essentially, your phone is giving you the middle finger. Carrying a back-up battery cell that you can connect via USB or buying a battery case will save you a great deal of grief, anxiety, and wandering to find your friends. Just an added tip, don’t charge your phone to full because you will probably overcharge the phone and waste the battery. In addition, turn the phone off while you charge it, no reason to waste battery power.
Sweatshirt or Jacket
Stay warm. I can’t tell you how many of my friends come down with some sort of illness after Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras flu can be any host of illnesses, but the first line of defense is keeping yourself warm. Most students see the sun shining when they leave, get eager to catch a ride or meet up with their friends that have already scouted out a parade spot, and forget a jacket. If you are worried about carrying a jacket, throw it in a drawstring bag and put it on your back. That’ll keep your hands free during the parade, but you will also be able to cover yourself up in the event of rain or cold.
Don’t be Bashful
You’ve never seen a community come together until you’ve been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Strangers become friends and just about everyone is united around a common goal of celebrating New Orleans’ heritage and some of the oldest carnivale traditions in America. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions, help, food, or even a beer. The mood is light and people want to help. If you find yourself in a situation where you are alone and need assistance of some kind, there will be somebody that is willing to help you. New Orleans means community, more so around Mardi Gras. Don’t be bashful and if anything you need isn’t in your fanny pack or can’t be corrected with snacks or an extra phone battery, your Mardi Gras neighbors will be more than willing to help you.
Tommy Milburn