Barkus is a game changer

Before my time, parades used to roll through the French Quarter. Well, really before my time they used to roll through lots of neighborhoods…
Now, one has to mosey to the Uptown side of things or at least stand on the dividing line to participate in float parades, except for Endymion (held downtown of Canal-for a few blocks anyway). However, I stay far from that Mid City mess held on the last Saturday before Fat Tuesday. To explain my p.o.v., just know that some groups start to camp out on the Thursday before Endymion and that it seems to celebrate white middle class New Orleans more than any other parade in the city. And even though I am in that number, I know we have no proud history of adding much to Mardi Gras, music or food around here. So, when we throw a parade, you can expect it to be loud, big and lacking some finesse. So good luck to those brave enough to make it. Me, I wish ol Endymion would find that long sleep again.
My schedule is usually seeing 1-3 parades and 1 of them is one of the 2 walking parades in the French Quarter. Barkus is almost always the choice.
What I like about it:
1. It benefits a worthy cause-pet rescue and allows any brave dog owners to participate.
2. It is the right scale. Those folks have to stay sober enough to walk miles with their dogs but drunk enough to wear feathers or shirts that match them.
3. It has a sense of humor. South Pawcific?
4. It’s over before dinner time.
I have been watching it recently from a friend’s place on Saint Ann to watch the crowds. Some of us sit on the balcony, some of us draw up chairs on the ground, chatting with anyone near enough to be caught. What I have noticed is that much like French Quarter Festival, it seems to be bringing in locals who spend the day roaming the Quarter and reacquainting themselves with it. I see groups of people chatting for hours, sitting with a beer and their chair set up in the sun. Children are very plentiful and the Barkus participants keep an eye out for them to bestow their trinkets first.

Many parades are somewhat hierarchical: we sit waiting for the masked riders to roll by hoping to catch their eye or their ear. As glorious as they can be, they can also be passive and maybe even a little cruel. I find the walking parades much more interactive and personal.
Really, it is one of the reasons why the Quarter remains useful: in a small way, like Tahrir Square, we use it to perambulate and to connect and if we need to, to protest. Lucky for us, a change in government is possible here with peaceful transitions.
I contend that the reason we came through our most recent federal disaster with so little strife among the citizenry was that we have this release every year we call Carnival season. It forces us to meet new people, and allows us to have the time to catch up with old friends in detail. We laugh at bad puns together, cheer a good throw or catch and generally get the anxiety and angst out.
And when we can do it in the middle of the old city with our best companions, what can be better?

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About DW

New Orleans resident, writer, activist. Public market consultant.

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