the north face longhaul 30 It’s a party for the hardy
Thousands and thousands of revelers turned out Saturday for the annual Soulard Mardi Gras Grand Parade and street party. Organizers reported big crowds, despite temperatures that went from chilly in the morning to face numbing by sunset. Lines were longer for porta potties than for beer; still, many intersections were packed elbow to elbow with revelers bouncing to dance music and gnawing on bratwurst.
“It’s downright balmy compared to other years,” said Mack Bradley, spokesman for Mardi Gras Inc., which stages the annual party. “At least we had no tornadoes, no hurricanes ”
The trick is to be prepared. In addition to feather boas and hats covered in what appeared to be Muppet fur, revelers sported hunting gear, velour track suits and costumes fashioned from Tyvek. Mardi Gras rookie Erin Pierce repurposed wrist sweatbands as ‘snot guards” for her dripping nose.
“See, all I have to do is rub my nose and I’m set,” said Pierce, of O’Fallon, Ill. “It’s freakin’ cold, but I bought gloves and a hat. Nothing was going to stop me today.”
St. Louis Police Department Capt. Sam Dotson reported that crowds were generally well behaved.
“Kids will be kids, and they will look for an opportunity to have a drink and (that’s why) we have a strong presence,” Dobson said.
Though some men could be seen ducking into alleys to urinate, police reported no public urination citations by midafternoon. Porta potties, after all, provided a brief respite from gusting winds.
Mother Nature often smiles on Mardi Gras. In 1995, temperatures reached a record breaking 75 degrees. That year transformed Mardi Gras from neighborhood party to regional spectacle. But in 1997, temperatures barely budged freezing, and snow covered lots and walks. Organizers worried that Friday’s storms would upend fragile party tents, but businesses reported no major damage.
Festivities started with the annual Grand Parade, which saluted “American Treasures” and featured 100 floats and walking krewes. Perennial winners Mystic Knights of the Purple Haze took first prize with their tribute to fast food featuring Jack of Jack in the Box.
Veteran Tom Restoff has cheered the parade since its early days as a neighborhood march. Experience has taught him to dress in layers and invest in fashionable headwear, in this case a green Alpine hat with purple feathers.
“There is always going to be the guy in flip flops and a tank top every Mardi Gras no matter what,” Restoff said. “I’ve learned something from each Mardi Gras, including how to prepare for days like today.”