Mardi Gras Mambo

“Throw me something mister!”

A float from Krewe of Iris Parade

A float from Krewe of Iris Parade

We took the kids to their first Mardi Gras in the Big Easy.

Kids? Mardi Gras? Do those two even go together?

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It can, depending on which parades and where you go to see them.

When I went to my first Mardi Gras parade as an LSU grad student, I was amazed at how family-friendly the daytime parades could be. Everyone back home kept asking me incrediously, “You went to Mardi Gras? Wasn’t it crazy – full of debauchery and strippers?” Unfortunately, that’s a typical reaction, not only for Northwestern Louisiana, but pretty much the rest of the country.

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The Krewe of Iris is the only all-female Krewe.

We went to the daytime parades of Iris and Tucks, which are held the Saturday before the actual Mardi Gras day. The weekend parades just before Fat Tuesday have always been my favorite and since it coincided with President’s Day holiday this year, we decided it was time to go back.

These parades start in Uptown and travel down St. Charles Avenue – far away from the French Quarter. We stood on St. Charles near the intersection of Constantinople. We were about two blocks from Sacred Heart Academy whose annual fundraiser sells food and offers their portable bathroom facilities for $5 a wristband or $1 per bathroom visit; a bargain if you ask me.

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The Krewe of Iris parade started at 11 am, so we arrived about 10 am to find a spot. Tents, grills and tarps marked spaces for large groups along the neutral ground – the median area in the middle of St. Charles.  On the other side, chairs and people lined up but there was much more space. Some residents temporarily fenced in their front yards to the sidewalk to keep parade-goers out and to reserve their own space for only their invited guests.

 

Ladders with a decorated box on top – for kids to sit in – lined both sides of the street. Dads and sons threw footballs in the street. We were in a residential area filled with families.

Notice all the kids behind us

Notice all the kids behind us on specially decorated ladders.

Before the parade. Notice the beads stuck in the tree from the previous night's parade.

Before the parade. Notice the beads stuck in the tree from the previous night’s parade.

Further up towards St. Charles and Napoleon, college kids from nearby Tulane and Loyola, crowded the area. People wore colorful costumes, tutus, wigs. My children dared me to don a gold sequin jacket somebody had given me as a gift. Where else besides and LSU game can I wear it?

After the first parade, a small walking parade came through before the Tucks parade.

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Part of the walking parade between Iris and Tucks

 

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One of our friends was part of the walking parade.

 

Part of the walking parade featured this group scooting around on recliners to Frant Sinatra music.

Part of the walking parade featured this group scooting around on recliners to Frank Sinatra music.

The Krewe of Tucks is known for its irreverence and toilet humor. Throws include toilet paper, beads with a latrine, small toilet plungers, as well as the typical colorful beads, cups, stuffed animals and frisbees. It was still tame.

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A float from Tucks Parade

We opted not to go to the night-time parade of Endymion – only because the kids were tired. Leaving New Orleans, we could see cars pouring into the city. We remembered that the night parades are more crowded and usually rowdier – especially those like Endymion that go closer to downtown. We made the right decision and called it a day.

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A great day!

 


Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs, GA

Located on the west side of Atlanta in Lithia Springs, Sweetwater Creek State Park offers 9 miles of wooded hiking trails. The highlight is walking by the ruins of an old textile mill burned during the Civil War.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek State Park

The trail to the mill ruins is marked in red.

The trail to the mill ruins is marked in red.

We took our dog and hiked along the red, historic trail to see the mill ruins. The 1/2 mile to the mill ruins is relatively easy and follows Sweetwater Creek.

Mill ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company

Mill ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company

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Because the ruins are unstable, a chain link fence surrounds the area. However, it does not deter from the views. In fact, there are several wooded viewing platforms. Clearly marked signs detail the history of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company.

The red trail continues for another 1/2 mile and gets difficult quickly. As long as you wear sturdy shoes and don’t mind tree roots, it is worth it just for the views of the rapids along Sweetwater Creek.

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We hooked on to the white trail to continue back to the car. Notice the tree roots on along the trail.

Near the end of the red trail, the 5 mile, white trail intersects it. We took this trail for a little over a mile back to the visitor’s center. This path took us up along the ridge for a completely different view of the creek. It was such a slight slope this part didn’t feel steep. Yet, we were considerably higher than the other trail. Even though it was winter and most leaves had fallen from the trees, the scenery was beautiful.

The park offers ranger-led hikes for a small fee. You can choose to go on a full-moon hike in the evening or an early morning dog hike; a history hike or a geology hike.

Hiking isn’t the only activity. Plenty of watersports abound in warmer months including kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals. Fishing, birding and geocaching are also popular here, as well as interpretive programs and hayrides.

For more information, visit their website at http://gastateparks.org/SweetwaterCreek.