By Zoe Moseley
Throughout the years, Mardi Gras has been a time of revelry attracting both tourists and locals to the New Orleans area. The widely accessible holiday, where requirements of involvement are minimized to showing up, requires much more work when riding in a parade. The free-wheeling and rather disorderly crowds often make us forget all of the behind the scenes work and preparation that krewe members put into parades. Krewe members of Mardi Gras parades typically have to apply, pay a fine, prepare, and attend a couple of events prior to riding. Their fun is strategically planned for months before the season. I had the pleasure of interviewing riders from two different krewes, Martine Wiseman, a rider in Krewe of Choctaw, and Jessica Fridge, a rider in Krewe of Muses. Both riders had very different experiences in their krewes and taught me a lot about a holiday I thought I knew everything about.
I have attended parades since I was extremely young and grew up right next to the parade routes. Walking down to watch parades was something my family members anticipated every year, Choctaw being one of our favorites. The Krewe of Choctaw has almost 400 men, women, and children, and is considered a family parade due to its inclusiveness to all ages. Martine Wiseman described the parade as “truly unique, it seems like riders’ ages ranged from 8-80.” Ms. Wiseman’s favorite parts of the parade were the preparation, buying throws, and the anticipation. Spending around $750 on throws and dues for her daughter and herself, Ms. Wiseman started preparing four months before the parade. When I asked her what she learned about Mardi Gras after riding, she said: “there were many rules riders had to follow, none were out of the ordinary but prior to riding you do not think about guidelines.” Rules include basic safety measures as well as surprising guidelines such as keeping your mask on at all times and wearing a harness. When I asked Jess Fridge about the rules for the Krewe of Muses she listed very similar regulations.
Unlike Choctaw, Muses is a bigger krewe, rolls at night, and is not open to all ages. Muses is an all women’s krewe that rides the Uptown parade route on the Thursday before Mardi Gras day. In total, the krewe has a couple thousand members, but only a few members ride each year. Muses also has a very long waitlist that has been closed for ten years. The application process is much more tedious than what Martine Wiseman went through. Similar to Choctaw, Muses does not have a traditional ball, instead they have many events leading up to a parade and a big party after the ride. This after-party is called Amusement and is open to the public. “Other than it being all women, the krewe is not generalized,” Ms. Fridge says. “You see women from all different professions and a lot of women with strong connections to New Orleans.” Like Martine Wiseman, Jess Fridge enjoys the anticipation for the holiday but not the preparation. Though all parades require lots of preparation, riders in Muses have an extra element of work, decorating shoes. Decorated shoes are a prized throw from the Krewe of Muses. Unlike many riders in Muses, Jess Fridge said she starts decorating her shoes only a couple of months before the ride, which can cause stress to build up quickly. Another stressful aspect of parade preparation is the cost. According to Mrs. Fridge, “it is a financial commitment that is by no means cheap.” Some of the riders in Muses spend well over a couple hundred dollars. When I talked to both women these prices surprised me. I understood the fun of riding but was confused as to why it all seemed worth it in a city where fun is achievable at a far lower price. When I asked both Ms. Wiseman and Ms. Fridge what about this, they responded similarly. They explained that the pure enjoyment they have riding or seeing fellow riders have felt unmatchable. Seeing crowds lined up for miles excited to see you, having an almost Christmas morning feeling before the parade, and getting to prepare even with the stress of it all is unbeatable. Viewing Mardi Gras parades is fun for many but the work, detail, and preparation that goes into a parade is a subject only krewe members could understand. As Jess Fridge said, “It’s the fun that makes it all worthwhile.”