Time to Brush Up on Your Mardi Gras Parade Etiquette
1. Don’t Save Your Space and Leave
People aren’t supposed to save spots for parades, but they do it anyway. However, avoid staking out an area with tarps, ropes, and other boundaries hours before the parade unless you plan to hang out there. Also, there is always the possibility that officials remove your items if you decide to stake out a spot and leave it unattended.
2. Leave Other People’s Stuff Alone
Don’t move other people’s stuff. That’s all there is to it. For all you know, they stepped away for a bathroom break and are coming right back. They may have young children, elderly people, or someone with a disability attending with them.
3. Keep Personal Items Six Feet from the Curb
The curb area and grass between the street and sidewalk are for people to enjoy the parade. Ladders, coolers, chairs, and similar items are supposed to be at least 6 feet from the curb. Although people don’t always adhere to this rule, it’s a rule nonetheless (and a safety precaution, too).
4. Don’t Take Throws Meant for Others
Many times, float riders will make eye contact with someone and specifically throw them an item. Often, this is pretty obvious to the person and those around them. It’s good Mardi Gras etiquette to let the intended recipient get the item. Bonus points if you help them snag the throw.
5. When in Doubt, Let the Kids Have It
If a child catches something intended for you, let them have it. Not sure if something you caught was heading your way or to the kid next to you? Give it to the kid.
6. Don’t Throw Things at the Floats
Do not, repeat, do not throw anything at a float for any reason. It’s dangerous and disrespectful to the riders. You could also potentially injure other paradegoers.
7. Let Fallen Beads Lie
You will see tons and tons of beads and other throws piling up in the street as the parade goes by. Under no circumstances should you run out between floats to grab things from the street. Advise children with you to leave these items alone.
Also, make sure to not go for items on the ground, especially when a float is near. All it takes is a stumble or push, and you could find yourself in an unfortunate situation.
8. No Glass Containers
It’s no secret that you can drink to your heart's content anywhere on the parade route. Most people spend the parade sipping on beers, cocktails, and creative homemade concoctions. However, use cans or plastic containers to avoid broken glass all over the ground.
9. Respect Barricades and Other Official Boundaries
Barricades are there for a reason, usually for your safety and well-being. Don’t knock down or climb over barricades. If you do, besides potentially injuring yourself, you’ll likely draw unwanted attention from nearby officers.
10. Keep Your Clothes On
Yes, we all know the stories of flashing the floats for some beads and other coveted throws. But, is it worth it? No. Plus, there are likely kids around, so keep your clothes on, please.
11. Pay Attention to Parking Signs
If you disregard no-parking signs during carnival, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a towed vehicle. The last thing you want is to trek back to your car after a parade and discover it “ain’t there no more.”
Also, it’s worth mapping out your plans for getting to and from parades, especially on Mardi Gras Day and the weekend before it. During this time, the French Quarter typically closes to vehicular traffic, except for those with special passes who live or work in the neighborhood.
Additionally, street parking will be extremely hard to come by anytime a parade is on the horizon. There are parking lots where you can book a space (plan to do so well in advance), but be prepared for higher prices during this busy time of year.
12. Plan for Bathroom Breaks
Unless you’re a paying customer, you won’t get to use the bathrooms in various bars, restaurants, and other establishments. These places often host special events and parties during parades, so you could consider buying a ticket to the event.
Otherwise, know the location of the nearest designated bathroom areas. Some companies set up mobile bathrooms that charge you a small fee to use the facilities, but they’re nicer than a porta-potty. Whatever you do, don’t pee in public, unless you want to meet the nearest police officer.
Throw Me Something, Mister! (Please)
Whether you spend Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street, exploring Frenchmen, or enjoying the French Quarter and beyond, stay respectful so everyone has a great time. And above all else, remember the most important rule of Mardi Gras, “Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!” - Let the good times roll!