Mardi Gras, or just another Tuesday

It’s Mardi Gras in my native city. It’s just another Tuesday in Kansas City and just about most of the rest of the country. To liven up the mood here at Buffalo Wild Wings, I played “Go to the Mardi Gras” by Professor Longhair. 

The song mentions you will “see the Zulu King at St. Claude and Dumaine”, although the parade hasn’t passed by that point since the 1950s. Today, Zulu started at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Claiborne and proceeded south to St. Charles and then towards downtown and Treme, the neighborhood made famous by the HBO series. I wish Kim Dickens were still on TV. 

Not that I cared about Mardi Gras much during my later years in Louisiana. The last time I went to a parade on Fat Tuesday was 1992, when my family went to watch Rex on Napoleon Avenue near the parade’s starting point. The last parade I attended was Thoth in 1994, only because I had several friends riding, including Herb Vincent, who was then an associate athletic director at LSU and now is an associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference in Birmingham. Many of the men I knew riding in Thoth–Ray Maher, Bruce Civello, Joe Scheuermann, Scott and Bryan Bairnsfather, Jeff Wooton–have lost touch, and sadly, Ray “Bigun” Jeanfreau passed away in 2012 at 49. 

Thoth is the longest parade on the Mardi GRas calendar. Instead of starting on Napoleon and heading to St. Charles, the parade starts farther west, now at the corner of State and Tchoupitoulas (CHOP-it-too-las), proceeds to Henry Clas Avenue, north to Magazine Street, east to Napoloeon, then north to St. Charles. Thoth passes by several medical homes for the developmentally disabled and Children’s Hospital, one of the nation’s best pediatric facilities. When I went to the parade from 1992 through ’94, it started at Henry Clay and Magazine, proceeded south to Tchoupitoulas, then east to State and north to Magazine. 

The day before Thoth in 1994, I went to Endymion for the last time. I’ll never forget asking Ray to order a Coke for me at a local watering hole, and then tasting it and discovering bourbon mixed in. It was funny then and it’s funny now. 

Endymion, Thoth and Zulu are the three parades which deviate significantly from the standard route, which begins on Napoleon and heads either north or south towards St. Charles. Most parades start south of St. Charles, but Rex and a couple of others come from the other direction. 

Endymion starts at the corner of City Park Avenue and Orleans Avneue near Delgado Community College and Tad Gormley Stadium. It heads down Orleans to North Carrollton, from CArrollton to Canal Street, and then down to St. Charles, where it turns west towards Poydras. From Poydras it heads to the Mercedes-Benz Supderome for the krewe’s “Extravaganza”, which is open to the public, unlike most carnival balls, which are by invitation only. 

If Mardi Gras fell late, I was usually knee deep in LSU baseball or covering the high school basketball playoffs for The Advocate. So I didn’t mind missing it at all. 

For those of you in Norton, Phillipsburg and Smith Center wondering if one of these parades could motor down US 36, forget it. The floats are way too wide, and there would be no room whatsoever on the sides of the road. Maybe along US 281 in Russell. 

It’s brutally cold in Kansas City. Again. At least it isn’t snowing. 

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on February 9, 2016, in History, Personal and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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