Sunday, February 03, 2008

This Olde Parade - Parade Formula

Mardi Gras on the Gulf Coast isn't quite the same as New Orleans. Much more laid back. Far fewer drunks. Nobody peeing on you. Fairly "kid safe." So, yesterday, we took the kids to the Gulfport parade. I thought I'd break the event into three posts, because I took so many pictures.This post demonstrates the "Parade Formula."

First comes the bands. They are usually playing something upbeat and heavy on the bass. In bigger parades, there are dozens of bands. Sometimes they come from far away as Texas to march and fill the air with their cadences. When I was in middle school, I drummer. Lead snare. We'd march half a dozen times in three days. We hated each one. The drums were heavy. The woodwind players complained about the weather affecting their reeds. The brass players complained about the glare of their instruments. And we all ended up with sore feet. But at least it only happened once a year.

After the bands, then you get these weird groups like the military branches and the government. Sometimes they have bands of their own. Almost always they are in full uniform, staring straight ahead, emotionless.

I was most affected by the SeaBees. The Naval Construction Battalion Center is here in Gulfport, MS. It is the home to all the Atlantic Fleet SeaBees. These guys are responsible for critical construction (ie: bridges) and reconstruction in worn-torn areas (ie: Iraq) and I have nothing but respect for them. My father was a SeaBee. My grandfather worked on the SeaBee base for many years. And growing up, the SeaBee icon was everywhere. Interestingly enough, when I took the picture, I didn't notice the girl in the purple shirt resting on the gun! Or the mother throwing the red beads while clutching a child to her chest.

Once the bands and military/government groups have slid by, then the true floats come into view. Unlike New Orleans, most floats on the Gulf Coast aren't made out of flowers. And they are often privately sponsored by families, coworkers, or groups of friends. Each one is considered a unique "Krewe." There were dozens of floats at this parade, but the Krewe Of Nasa caught my eye. Not only were they all dressed up in mock flight suits, but they were also having a really good time.

Finally, one of my favorite prizes. I guess these are "marshmallow treats," now. When I was a kid, we caught "Moon Pies." I never ate them outside of Mardi Gras, though. And I didn't eat the "marshmallow treat," today. God knows where it has been, but (pretty as it is) it isn't going in MY mouth.

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