The St Louis Mardi Gras is one of the largest and liveliest US Mardi Gras parties, second only to New Orleans in the number of people who attend each year. The Soulard Mardi Gras is held in a historic French neighborhood named after Antoine Soulard, who arrived in the late eighteenth century as a refugee from the French Revolution. The neighborhood, which is one of the oldest in St Louis, is the perfect place for one of the largest US Mardi Gras parties to be held as it is well suited for vacationers and locals with its numerous businesses, restaurants, pubs, cafes, bars, and old world atmosphere.
When making plans for the 2016 Mardi Gras celebrations, be aware the festivities center on the Soulard neighborhood and accommodations are limited. There are no large hotels in the neighborhood, but a hostel and several bed and breakfasts are available. It’s also possible to stay farther away from the Mardi Gras action and take public transportation or taxis into the central part of St Louis.
Many great events take place at the St Louis Mardi Gras including several parades, races, and musical entertainment. The Grand Parade consists of street performers, marching bands, and decorative floats. Each float entered into the parade represents an individual Krewe. Krewes are social organizations or clubs with members. One Mystik Krewe of Comus, in New Orleans, is the oldest of these organizations.
One of the popular family-oriented events at the Soulard Mardi Gras is the annual Krewe of Barkus Beggin’ Strips Pet Parade. Owners and their canine friends dress up in traditional Mardi Gras costume attire, adorned with purple, green, and gold beads, and walk the parade route. Hundreds of participants and thousands of onlookers take part in the event, regardless of weather. The parade is open to all breeds and is recognized as one of the largest pet parades in North America.
After the pet parade, another event at the St Louis Mardi Gras that draws large crowds is the Weiner Dog Derby. The races are for Dachshunds only, from the smallest puppy to the largest dog, competing for the title as the fastest canine on the track. Revelers cheer from the stands as one by one, each dog leaves the starting gate and races (or walks) along the 100-foot racetrack. The derby is strictly for fun and family pleasure, and the dogs are safe as Weiner Wranglers are on hand should any contestant leave the racetrack without its owner.
Another of the revelers’ favorite US Mardi Gras parties held prior to Fat Tuesday is the adult parade where the tradition of throwing colorful bead necklaces into the crowd takes place along Soulard’s parade route. Beads are a big part of not only the Soulard Mardi Gras but also the celebrations held in other US cities such as New Orleans, Galveston, and Orlando. The necklaces, once made only of cut glass, today are available in varying sizes in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, and made from metallic or plastic materials. The necklaces are the perfect souvenir to commemorate celebrating at one of the US Mardi Gras parties.
The St Louis Mardi Gras festivities are also popular for how long they last—the season begins after the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, which is on January 6, and continue through to Fat Tuesday, until the beginning of Lent.
Image: tim7423 (flickr)