Katrina & Beyond
3:24 pm
Tue February 5, 2008

More Than Super: Fat Tuesday in New Orleans

It may be Super Tuesday elsewhere, but in New Orleans, it's Fat Tuesday — Mardi Gras — the third since Hurricane Katrina. And with 12 days of parades and parties, the city is almost as festive as before the storm.

By 8 a.m. Tuesday, hundreds of people were gathering at the corner of Claiborne and Jackson for the start of the Zulu parade.

Larry Roy, resplendent in face paint, red satin coat and headdress, is the Zulu Krewe's Minister of Fun.

And as for any lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina, he said things have gotten better.

"We're back to where we were — even stronger," Roy said.

"We had a lot of members that died during the storm or whatever, we have some that's passing now. But we have a membership that constantly has a waiting list."

Among the krewes, the second lines, and the parade spectators, the topic of Katrina did not come up much.

That was the case even when the parade was opened by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, riding a horse, dressed in Indian buckskins and a war bonnet.

"Oh yeah, I ride every year," Nagin said.

Vendors were busy along the parade route, hawking their snacks and drinks.

"Hot coffee, hot coffee, bread pudding, red beans and rice, hot dogs," one cried out.

Locals know there are some secrets to Mardi Gras. The first is to know where to find a bathroom close to the parade route. But another is how to get really good loot — the beads, cups, and trinkets the krewes throw from the floats.

Suzanne Stookey had an ace in the hole: two cute kids. Jack, 6, and Austin, 3, were perched securely in a box fastened on top of a stepladder, the better to see and be seen by those throwing goodies from the floats.

There is one more important tip shared by longtime Zulu krewe member Kevin Thomas. To get through 12 days of parades and parties, he said, you have to pace yourself.

"Well, you slow your roll," Thomas said. "[You] sip, you don't drink."

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

It is Fat Tuesday — Mardi Gras — the third in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. There was some violence in the city on this holiday week. Seven people were injured in shootings near parades that police attributed to personal grudges and drug disputes. Also, two men were killed when they were run over by floats.

Despite all that, NPR's Greg Allen reports Mardi Gras is just about back to it's pre-Katrina exuberance and attendance.

GREG ALLEN: There are actually 12 days of parades here in New Orleans and pedigreed Mardi Gras celebrations elsewhere in Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama. But for most of us, Mardi Gras means New Orleans. And by 8 a.m. this morning, hundreds of people were gathering at the corner of Claiborne and Jackson for the start of the Zulu parade.

Larry Roy, resplendent in face paint, red satin coat and headdress, is the Zulu's Minister of Fun. And as for any lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina…

Mr. LARRY ROY (Zulu's Minister of Fun): Oh, we're back to where we were - even stronger.

ALLEN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROY: I mean really stronger. We have more members now. We had a lot of members that died during the storm or whatever, we have some that's passing now. But we have a membership that constantly has a waiting list.

ALLEN: Among the krewes, the second lines, and the parade spectators, Katrina is a topic that really didn't come up much. Not even when the parade was opened by a man riding a horse dressed in Indian Buckskins and a war bonnet. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

Mayor RAY NAGIN (Democrat, New Orleans): Oh, yeah. I ride every year to start the parade off, to kind of get things going and this is Mardi Gras. Its Fat Tuesday so it looks like it's going to be a great pride and I'm looking forward to it. Happy Mardi Gras.

(Soundbite of matching band)

Mr. DEACON WATSON(ph)(Former Sergeant; Cook, U.S. Army): Hot coffee, hot coffee, bread pudding, red beans and rice, hot dogs.

ALLEN: New Orleans means music but it also means food. Deacon Watson of the United House of Prayer is a former army sergeant and cook who in (unintelligible) admits bread pudding is a specialty. His secret…

Mr. WATSON: Knowing the taste that people like in New Orleans. And that's the taste of nutmeg and vanilla.

ALLEN: How about rum or brandy, you go with that?

Mr. WATSON: But not with the church, but at home we do it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ALLEN: Locals know there are some secrets to Mardi Gras. The first is to know where to find a bathroom close to the parade route. But another is how to get really good loot — the beads, cups, and trinkets the krewes throw from the floats.

Suzanne Stookey had an ace in the hole: two cute kids. Six-year-old, Jack, and 3-year-ols Austin, perched securely in a box fastened on top of a stepladder.

JACK: Hello.

Ms. SUZANNE STOOKEY: Say hi.

ALLEN: I'm not from New Orleans. What's the deal with these stepladders and the box?

Ms. STOOKEY: It holds the kids in. It lifts them higher so they can catch stuff. So it keeps them from the crowd. It's really a great part of Mardi Gras.

JACK: I caught a whistle.

ALLEN: There is one more important tip shared by longtime Zulu krewe member Kevin Thomas. To get through 12 days of parades and parties, you have to pace yourself.

Mr. KEVIN THOMAS (Zulu Krewe Member): Well, you slow your roll. You don't - you sip. You don't drink.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ALLEN: Greg Allen, NPR News, New Orleans.

BLOCK: And now a recap of today's Super Tuesday vote. Polls closed in nine states across the country in just a few moments. In total, there are 24 states holding primaries or caucuses today. Here's what we know so far; in Georgia, projections show that Barack Obama has easily won that states Democratic primary over rival Hillary Clinton. The Republican primary race in Georgia is still considered too close to call.

Earlier today, in West Virginia, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won all 18 delegates and that stats winner take all GOP convention. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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