In a couple of weeks, Mardi Gras will descend into a small French neighborhood in St. Louis known simply as Soulard. I think back to my first experience with this event back in 1996. (Yeah, I know. I’m SoOoOo old.) As a twenty-one year old small town (less than 5,000 people) girl, the move to the big city was tough and exciting. Mardi Gras only made it more so.
In 1996, the Soulard celebration was just beginning to explode into the phenom it is now. The Fat Tuesday Parade still went down 9th street. The big Saturday parade came down Russell from the Brewery. It was for the neighborhood with the entire metro area having invites.
I lived in a one bedroom apartment on 8th. And I loved it. Two blocks away stood Soulard Market, still one of the best places to get the best produce. But this quaint neighborhood transformed into one giant street party.
It was…different, to say the least.
The crazy hats, beads, and costumes were a wonder. I wondered why anyone would really think that green, purple, and yellow looked good together. The rowdiness and drunken, slurred shouts for beads scared me a bit. I’m not much of a drinker. Never have been really. So this type of street debauchery was completely a new experience. Plus it was right outside my apartment.
By the end of the festivities, it didn’t look so crazy to me anymore. It just looked like fun. So, fourteen years after my first Mardi Gras in The Lou, I will be more than just a observor. I’ll be in the parade. Look for the float full of Frankensteins and Brides. I’ll be there among them flinging beads at the beggars.
And it’ll be a blast.