How many of you were looking for tractors in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Mardis Gras parade? We were! The American Queen Steamboat was docked by the River Walk. With a day in town before boarding for our hosted river cruise – which I was covering for Senior News & Times for Illinois – we decided to check out the parade!
We really didn’t know what Mardi Gras was all about. We were surprised to find that at least the section we saw, was family oriented with high school bands, children, and yes, tractors!
History of Mardis Gras
Most everyone knows that Mardi Gras relates to the religious ceremony of the Lenten season. Mardi Gras is celebrated today, “Fat Tuesday,” the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is the official start of Lent.
Mardi Gras New Orleans Style
However, for many cities like New Orleans, Mardi Gras is a week long festival. The day we arrived in New Orleans was Sunday, February 16th. The celebration was already in full force!
Mardis Gras traces back to medieval Europe to Rome and Venice and the French House of the Bourbons. According to the New Orleans Mardi Gras history, “the traditional revelry of “Boeuf Gras,” or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies.”
The website states, “New Orleans was established in 1718 by Bienville (founder of New Orleans). By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans, but not with the parades we know today. In the early 1740s, Louisiana’s governor, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, established elegant society balls, which became the model for the New Orleans Mardi Gras balls of today.”
The word “Carnival” first was used in a 1781 report to the Spanish colonial governing body. Then by the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions. These included masked groups called krewes that remain anonymous. Floats and balls add to the festivities.
The parade we saw, was I think the second of three that day. It had started around two in the afternoon. The tractors were working tractors. They were pulling exquisitely decorated floats. I think we were probably the only revelers taking pictures of the tractors. We saw a Ford, a couple Masseys and even a New Holland. As far as we could tell, there were no Farmalls or John Deere to be seen! (Although we would see a few John Deere in a little Louisiana town later in our river travels!)
Among the tractors was a beautiful antique fire pumper. This belonged to the New Orleans Fire Department. The pumper was pulled by equally beautiful draft horses.
A small thing I know, tractors in the midst of bands and floats and Mardis Gras, but maybe not. We all eat, we all depend on the farm and the work that tractors do. Maybe in their own small way, these workhorses too were being honored on Mardis Gras.
If visiting this beautiful city, make sure you stop at the WWII Museum, it is a humdinger!