Even though we have lived here for 18 months, this year was the first Mardi Gras that I felt like The Littles were collectively old enough to try taking them to a parade. Unfortunately for me, the hubs ended up out of town to spend time with our oldest daughter at her college, so that meant I was going to be on my own. Just me and my 2 high energy toddlers VS a sea of Mardi Gras madness. I almost threw in the towel, but I’d already talked it up to them and they were so danged excited, I decided to put on my big girl pants and just go for it. It also helped that another girlfriend had invited me to meet up with her and her kids along with some other Moms and kids. So I packed my ”31 gifts” cooler with snacks and drinks and we set out.
Now, Jay and I both grew up in Thibodaux and are veteran Mardi Gras revelers. But, it’s been a while and my first mistake was listening to my girlfriend (whom I adore, but she’s a terrible planner and always LATE!) and we didn’t head downtown until 1:00. Not a good plan. We were supposed to be meeting them in the Bank of America parking lot, but by the time I got to Garden street, it was soooo packed with people that I had no idea where to even try to park. I called my friend and she was going to be about 30 minutes late and since I hadn’t met the gal who arranged the BofA location, I decided to wing it and make it work on my own. Normally, I’d have just gone home, but the kids were all decked out in beads and kept saying, “Throw me something, Mister!” from the backseat. I succumbed to their cuteness and we forged on!
I realized I had forgotten to get cash to park, so we swung through our bank’s ATM and got some cash. That put me at Garden and Jefferson and I saw the $3 parking in the big Jefferson street garage. The frugal Mom in me decided to take the cheaper parking without realizing I was on the “wrong” side of Palafox and Garden to catch the early part of the parade. Oops. Oh well, I thought. How bad can it be? (clearly I’d forgotten what Palafox was like last year when Jay and I did a bit of Mardi Gras without the kids.) But we parked, loaded up the double stroller and followed the crowds through the walk way. That’s when it dawned on me exactly where I’d landed us. (have I mentioned that I’m certain that kids steal your brain?) So, I pushed us past The Wine Bar (love that place btw) and out onto Palafox. Holy tons of people, Batman! I was silently thinking, “Really, Julie? A double stroller on Palafox at Mardi Gras?” when I actually passed another mom pushing one in the other direction. We exchanged “Lord help us/sisters-in-arms” glances and carried on. (I’m so glad I only had to push my way through half a block!)
I got the the corner of Garden and Palafox and there was a nice big space by the curb in front of Vinyl. There was also a group of kids playing with sidewalk chalk and another family with 2 littles and a double stroller parked right there. I looked at the throngs of people in every direction and immediately decided we had found our parade spot.
I started chatting with the adjacent Mom and really enjoyed watching the parade with her and her family. It’s a really long parade and the floats were very spread out. I had to put Sam down in between floats because my arms were killing me. We did a good job with Spencer standing on the stroller next to me while I held Sam. My greatest fear was losing one of them in the crowd, so that was our set up most of the time. I did let Spence get down for a bit and Traci helped me keep an eye on him since her two were stationary on Dad’s shoulders and in the stroller. I thought she was super nice! We caught a small amount of stuff and the kids had a ball. We were pretty far back, which I liked, but not everyone riding could see us that far back. I will say that I was disappointed at the number of adults who are willing to fight to get a throw away from an intended kiddo. That said, I realize that we weren’t in the most family friendly spot.
We lasted about mid-way through the parade before the kids had had enough. (and so had I) So with our throws in hand, we headed back to the van by way of Garden street. We were very close, so that was a plus. The Littles really behaved well, so they got an ice cream as a treat and we headed home. I’m glad I toughed it out and we gave it a shot but I will be doing things differently next year.
So, here’s what I learned from our Mardi Gras adventure-
- I’m never doing this again without Daddy to help me. (single Moms…you are my hero! Mad props to you all!)
- We will be sure and get to our “watching spot” much earlier.
- I think the start of the parade route is the best for families with little kids.
- I will do more research ahead of time. Since this was a last minute decision, I wasn’t prepared.
- It was nice to be with another Mom and her kids, so next year I’ll try to get a group together.
What are some of your best tips for parade watching in Pensacola? Any good or bad experiences you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.