Ellen Byron

Mardi Gras Memories

MARDI GRAS MURDER, my 4th Cajun Country Mystery, launched on October 9th. Yippee!! It revolves around the Cajun tradition of Courir de Mardi Gras. I thought I’d update and re-share this post about my own personal Mardi Gras experiences while a student at Tulane University. Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!


I went to school in New Orleans for a couple of reasons. One, I was a huge  Tennessee Williams fan. And two, well… it was New Orleans. Beautiful, atmospheric, a culture unto itself. And a big part of that culture revolves around Mardi Gras.

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My first Mardi Gras was memorable mostly because a guy friend from SUNY Binghamton, which I’d left only a month before, flew down to NOLA to party and wound up in the hospital after stepping on broken glass littering Bourbon Street. That year, I also learned the holiday comes to a very abrupt end. Police officers shout “Mardi Gras is now over!” on megaphones as street sweepers descend on the French Quarter, and if you don’t get out of the way, you run the risk of being swept up with the empty beer bottles and drink cups.

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img_8704By junior year, I’d joined a sorority – KKG eternally! – so my Kappa Kappa Gamma “sisters” and I dressed in costume and hit the parades as the floats tooled up St. Charles Avenue. That Mardi Gras was also exciting because one of my best friends was a New Orleans debutante.

In NOLA, Mardi Gras and debutantes have a symbiotic relationship. The young women who are maids and queens in the courts of traditional Carnival krewes – the private social clubs that sponsor Mardi Gras parades and balls – are from the deb coterie.During Mardi Gras season, the social scene is an absolute whirlwind of coming-out parties.  (A dear friend whose daughter was a 2016 debutante had so many party invitations, she took to clipping them to the light fixture in her kitchen and pulling them down as their dates came up.) Krewes make court calls in December to inform  debs whether they will be queen of a particular ball or a maid in the court.

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(Photo of the absolutely lovely 2016 Proteus queen and her proud parents – posted by their proud friend, moi!)

 My debutante friend Carla was queen of Proteus and a maid in the court of Rex, so I had the unique experience of attending both balls. Held in the Municipal Auditorium until Hurricane Katrina decimated it, these balls were an odd affair for us non-natives. Our tickets entitled us to sit in the balcony and watch other people dance and have fun. If you got lucky, a masked Krewe member handed you a “call-out card,” which was an invitation to join them on the dance floor. My sexy friend Pam received one. I, alas, did not. (That’s a photo of me dressed up for the Rex ball, and not my sexy friend, Pam. But you probably already figured that out.)

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an exciting, seductive experience. Christine Gentes, of the mapyourmystery.com blog, is such a fan that she turns the beads she catches into fantastic works of art.

I’ve worked up a Louisiana Bucket List, and one of the items on it is “Go back to NOLA for Mardi Gras.” Until then, I’ll live vicariously through this Paradecam that my friend the Proteus Queen shared with me. (Yes, I know two Proteus queens.) Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Readers, have you ever had a Mardi Gras experience?

28 thoughts on “Mardi Gras Memories

  1. How exciting it must be to live in New Orleans for any amount of time! I wish I could see it, even just once. The history alone would blow my mind! I read books that have New Orleans themes, such ad yours, and just adore them!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Mardi gras is one of those things I’d like to see, but I don’t want to be there (not a fan of crowds). We did take the trolley down St. Charles and saw all the beads hanging from the prior year when we were in NOLA in 2016 for Bouchercon.

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  3. I’ve never been to NOLA for Mardi Gras, but I used to host costume parties every year to celebrate the event (though, not being Catholic, the big gear-up for Lent didn’t mean anything to me–it was just an excuse for a big party!). These old photos are priceless, Ellen!

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  4. No Mardi Gras experience for me. I’m not sure I’d enjoy the crowds, although I bet I’d enjoy it once I was there. It’s the getting there and leaving that I wouldn’t enjoy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Getting to and from NOLA for MG isn’t anywhere near as bad as doing the same for Jazz Fest. (Which you’ll find in book five!!) I’d have panic attacks trying to leave the fairgrounds after Jazz Fest. Talk about crowds!! And if you can’t get to MG, well… go to MGW! (That’s Mardi Gras World, where they make many of the floats and give great tours.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the shoutout, Ellen. You know we love New Orleans and all things Mardi Gras. I was pining for a trip back even though we were just there in September. Planning two trips next year. Hope you enjoy your trip back to Tulane.

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  6. I’ve never been to Mardi Gras–nor New Orleans, nor even Louisiana. I almost faceplanted from the heat in Mississippi, though, the second I stepped out of an air-conditioned car. I had to be revived with two Blue Moons. I’m a little wary!

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  7. I have yet to go, it is something I’ve always wanted to do though. The older I get the more I dislike crowds so I might have to imbibe to survive, Lol. I would definitely visit MGW, I love behind the scenes action. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marci, if you’re going to imbibe to survive, you’ll be in the right place. I think “Imbibe to survive” is going to be my new motto. And NOLA’s new favorite saying, right after “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

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