Mardi Gras
1:34 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

The Most Exciting Spot To Watch Mardi Gras Parades? Before They Begin

Hundreds of kids in school bands warmed up before hitting the parade route on Sunday, as the Krewe of Bacchus prepared to roll.
Hundreds of kids in school bands warmed up before hitting the parade route on Sunday, as the Krewe of Bacchus prepared to roll.
Credit Jason Saul / WWNO

Record-breaking crowds have flocked to New Orleans for this year's Mardi Gras celebration. It's an all-consuming holiday that wouldn't be quite complete without returning from a parade with a neck draped in beads. However, many people say it's the bands that march in the parades that they enjoy most.

Scores of school kids in each band train all year to march in the parades, in front of monstrous floats pitching beads to tens of thousands of screaming Carnival revelers. Krewes are required by law to maintain a minimum number of bands in each parade — though some parades, especially the "super-krewes", parade with many more.

School bands get their final practice in, stay warmed up, and battle one-another with their best songs.
School bands get their final practice in, stay warmed up, and battle one-another with their best songs.
Credit Jason Saul / WWNO

Carnival parades in Uptown New Orleans traditionally stage on the corner of Tchoupitoulas Street and Napoleon Avenue (though many parades now begin on Tchoupitoulas and Jefferson). It's here that tuba players and cheerleaders, drum majors and flag carriers, disgorge from idling school buses and prepare for the performance ahead.

Bands spill down the street and fill the Rouses Supermarket parking lot, where the kids warm up, tune up, and perhaps mend a few injuries — some school bands march in five, or more, parades each Carnival season.

The Roots of Music, practicing before the Bacchus parade:

Perhaps most excitingly, the bands will "battle" one-another with their best songs as they wait their turn to enter the parade lineup. In New Orleans being a member of a school band, and especially a drum major, is a point of pride — often more so than becoming the football quarterback, or other traditional high school status attainments.

A panorama of just a portion of the bands preparing to march in the 2014 Bacchus parade. Click to enlarge the photo.
A panorama of just a portion of the bands preparing to march in the 2014 Bacchus parade. Click to enlarge the photo.
Credit Jason Saul / WWNO
A drum major stretches out before the parade begins. In New Orleans students compete to lead their school bands.
A drum major stretches out before the parade begins. In New Orleans students compete to lead their school bands.
Credit Jason Saul / WWNO

The area is also a rare opportunity to see the bands perform as a whole, rather than spread out along the parade route.

The Tchoupitoulas staging area is a rare opportunity to see the bands perform together, rather than spread out along the parade route.
The Tchoupitoulas staging area is a rare opportunity to see the bands perform together, rather than spread out along the parade route.
Credit Jason Saul / WWNO
Bacchus krewe officers and New Orleans police slot the different elements of the parade together on Tchoupitoulas, and direct them one by one onto Napoleon Avenue.
Bacchus krewe officers and New Orleans police slot the different elements of the parade together on Tchoupitoulas, and direct them one by one onto Napoleon Avenue.
Credit Jason Saul / WWNO
The St. Augustine Marching 100 gets started.
The St. Augustine Marching 100 gets started.
Credit Jason Saul / WWNO

Warren Easton gets going:

As the Uptown parade route becomes ever-more crowded, more people are discovering the staging area.
As the Uptown parade route becomes ever-more crowded, more people are discovering the staging area.
Credit Jason Saul / WWNO

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