Parades- Lake Charles and Sulphur, Louisiana

I am a sucker for parades. I just love them. I was in marching band in junior high and high school, so I love to see the bands and the floats and the animals. Austin is not as into them as I am, but he humors me. Landon, on the other hand, is in my camp and loves parades. I don’t think he had been to one since he was eleven months old, so I don’t think he knew exactly what to expect. What we found definitely exceeded our expectations.

Here come the wagons!
Fancy head wagon with Clydesdales
Our first parade was last minute. We checked into our hotel here on Wednesday night, and I picked up a community guide the next day. I saw that there was a parade that very afternoon to complete the last leg of a heritage trail ride, and kick off the rodeo that was being held in Lake Charles. The heritage trail ride was taking place over several days, so I guess these guys were trekking around the countryside in these wagons for the past week! While we did not make it to the rodeo because it was too late at night for Landon, we did make it to the parade!

Austin had some training to do in Lake Charles that day, so Landon and I dropped him off and waited for the call to pick him up. Well, Landon was sleeping and then Austin was doing emails at the library, so we didn’t end up meeting back up until around the time the parade was supposed to start. When we got to the starting place, we realized that the parade was already about half-way done. So, we turned down side streets and chased the parade! We ended up pulling up into the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant to watch, right as the wagons were pulling up. Talk about good timing!
Simple wagon with mules/donkeys (Sometimes I can tell the difference, sometimes I can’t
This parade was small, but very interesting as there were all sorts of wagons being pulled by horses, mules and donkeys. Some of the wagons were very fancy, and others were quite rudimentary. Their final destination was the stadium of the local university, and many of the wagons already had their charcoal grills and smokers on board grilling meats in preparation for the after-party. Landon was impressed with the wagons and horses, and even  more impressed when people started throwing candy, stuffed animals, and beads at him. He thought it was the best thing ever!
My boys with some beads and a horse and cowboy stuffed animals

One thing that I had not thought of before was safety for toddlers at parades. We did not come prepared this parade with a stroller or some other restraining device, but Austin did a great job putting him on his shoulders and I was the official retriever of all things thrown onto the road. That way, Landon did not get crushed underneath any horses or wagon wheels.

The boys and the wagons

After most of the parade had passed, Austin put Landon down to pick up some last pieces of candy off the road. As you can tell from the pictures, we were the only people around our area at the end of the parade, so we had the candy they threw to us all to ourselves. We tried to pick up as much as possible to limit the littering. Landon was all about picking up candy. The only issue is then he wanted to eat it all right away and put it in his mouth without taking the wrappers off. YUM!

Landon appreciating what parades are really about- capturing candy!

A few days later was the Sulphur Mardi Gras parade. This parade was filled of different floats and vehicles, and the main throwing item was beads. Fortunately, we did not have to do anything to receive the beads except stand there. They kept it all very family-friendly. Local Mardi Gras revelers are parts of krewes- or basically celebration clubs. It’s a big deal down here, you have to be invited to be a part of the most popular and exclusive krewes, as well as live in certain geographical regions. There were applications for making new krewes, so if you feel left out, I guess you can make your own. There were several krewes represented in the Sulphur Mardi Gras parade, but I bet the big daddy parade on Mardi Gras- called the “Krewe of Krewes” parade, will probably have many more. The krewes host events for fun and for charity throughout the year.

Fire truck for cancer
The band and some people in costume…

 At the Sulphur parade, we again situated ourselves near the end of the parade because it was closest to our hotel. We had the stroller this time, and Landon was so transfixed by the loud sirens of the police cars and fire engines that he did not move the entire time. I was the retriever of the beads, candy and other goodies, and he sat back and took it all in.

There was only one band in the Sulphur parade. They played some nice jazzy party music, which was cool. They had section leaders marching backwards and directing their sections. They looked to be high school age, but I don’t think this group had any marching training. The music was great, though!

Krewe of Good Times float

Each Krewe and business float threw something at us. Mostly beads, but some threw cups, sunglasses, water bottles, balls, stuffed animals, and candy. That was Landon’s favorite part. We had quite the collection of multi-colored beads at the end. I’m thinking of either using them for decorating, or giving them as gifts for the next several years as authentic Mardi Gras beads.

Krewe de Loup- Basically dog krewe

Many of the krewes have French names because, after all, we are in Louisiana and in Cajun country. Good thing I took French in high school and a little at BYU so I can at least tell what their names really mean. I’m not sure if I could communicate/speak, but I can still read it! This parade had a few sputters and breaks and pauses, but then the classic cars and Camaros came by. Landon liked this part!

Another krewe!

As this was a Mardi Gras parade, I was expecting it to be a little rowdy. However, I think a combination of being near the end and in a tiny town meant that there was not enough of a crowd to make it rowdy. There was not even any whooping or hollering or clapping or other normal parade noises. It was kind of eery and odd. Everyone just stood there on the side of the road fairly silently and waited for their candy and beads. I didn’t want to start whooping and hollering because that would undoubtedly place me as an outsider here, which is already pretty apparent from the way we talk. Some people on the float yelled, “Happy Mardi Gras!” as they threw beads. I tried to get Landon to wave to the floats, but if all else failed I just waved to them, especially the kids because if I was in a parade I would want people to wave to me!

Landon modeling his new sunglasses

One thing I found funny was the Catholic float about giving things up for Lent. Mardi Gras celebrates the last day before Lent when you can “eat, drink, and be merry!” I guess, so naturally there should be a Catholic float about Lent in the parade, just to remind you to actually give up something after all the partying.

Ladder truck with people on the ladder!

This is only the first of quite a few parades we are hoping to catch while here during Mardi Gras time. The next ones are in Lake Charles and I think they are going to be even bigger and better than Sulphur’s parade. I am also picking up a King Cake this week from a bakery so we can try the local Mardi Gras specialty. Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!

Some of our goodies- including a tub of cotton candy- YUM!

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