Mentioning “Mardi Gras” ignites images of purple, green and gold; of dancing through crowded streets to the sound of sweet ear-splitting brass bands. While New Orleans may be famous for its Mardi Gras festivities, there’s no need to wander down south in search of a good time this weekend. On Saturday, one of the biggest celebrations in the nation will be happening right in our own back yard.
The Soulard Mardi Gras season has been a St. Louis custom for 35 years, starting in early January with the celebration of 12th Night. The fun continues until Fat Tuesday, and there’s a plethora of activities in between. The main event is the Grand Parade, held on the final Saturday of the season. This is what the streets of Soulard live for: the day when its vital night life bleeds into the waking hours.
Traditionally, the debauchery starts in the wee hours of the morning with kegs and eggs, tots and shots, wakin’ and bakin’, far earlier than you could pay a college student to get out of bed any other day of the year. SLUmor has it there will be complementary burritos distributed near the clock tower at about 6:00 a.m. After gobbling breakfast and guzzling beers, buzzed party-goers head to the bars. To avoid the parade parking nightmare, many bars offer a free shuttle ride to Soulard with the purchase of a Hurricane, the official drink of Mardi Gras.
Street style at the Mardi Gras parade includes an oversupply of tutus, neon flat-bills, glitter, and an inappropriate-for-the-weather lack of clothes. No matter who you are or what you are wearing, one item is a must: beads. Chances are you’ll gain or lose some accessories throughout the day, but don’t sweat it. Here lies the spirit of Mardi Gras: take situations as they come to you and go with the flow.
At Mardi Gras, anyone can be your best friend. Enthusiastic, outgoing, and intoxicated is the general atmosphere on St. Louis’ makeshift version of Bourbon Street. The people you show up with may not be the same group you spend the day with, and that’s okay. Still, at such a huge and highly populated event, it’s easy for circumstances go bad. One drink too many, losing your crew, or being trampled by the crowd could quickly spoil the day. Let loose, but stay safe.
This Saturday, March 4, the parade kicks off at 11:00 a.m. at Busch Stadium, weaving its way through the streets and ending up at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Afterwards, McGurk’s, Molly’s or the International Tap House are popular places to party down. If you’re a weathered veteran or warily testing the Mardi Gras waters, here’s the best advice you can get: take it easy, dance hard, stay safe and eat breakfast!