It's the absolute most wonderful time to be in Louisiana.
It's the season of Mardi Gras; a time when Louisiana's culture is celebrated in some of the most unique ways. When people come together in the streets of our cities to eat, drink and party that we get to live in the best state in the entire country...
And it's my favorite time of the year to go out of state.
To answer your first question: yes, I was in fact born and raised in New Orleans; the Mardi Gras capital of the U.S. To answer your second question, yes: I do love this city and this state. To answer your third question: yes, I have experienced Mardi Gras to its fullest extent before.
Many, many times in fact.
Here's photographic evidence of me at a parade:
Photo by Karley Nugent
That was Endymion a few years ago, which is arguably one of New Orleans' biggest and best parades of the season (and it's always been my personal favorite).
I'm not bashing Mardi Gras in any way. It's a wonderful holiday and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have grown up in a state that holds this festival to the high standard that we do.
It's just...I've been there and I've done that. So many times.
And to be honest...I got bored.
I will say that some of my favorite early childhood memories are screaming for beads and toys at parades with my cousins and even catching a few parades with friends in high school unsupervised because we were older and it was the cool thing to do. But after a while, I think the novelty of it all wore off on me.
One year, I realized that.
Maybe it was in opting out of catching that 50 billionth pair of plastic beads, or catching another bamboo spear and realizing I wasn't going to do anything with it once I brought it home...but I remember that at one point, I realized I wasn't having as much fun as I'd wanted to.
I think the universe realized that, because that was around the same time my family and I started bailing out of the state for Mardi Gras to go off and do other things.
See, the thing is, down here, we get time off of school and work for Mardi Gras. In middle school and high school, you're given a full week off (which was always odd to me, because Mardi Gras Day is Tuesday...but trust me, I never complained about it). Honestly, only our part of the country goes as big as we do to celebrate the occasion.
What I'm saying is, this is our time to play in the south, and the rest of the country is working.
That leaves a lot of options for play time.
I don't remember how old I was when my parents first started taking us on ski trips and mountain getaways for Mardi Gras break, but I do remember that became my sole reason for anticipating the holiday. I lived for getting away from Mardi Gras, because I began to love using that time not standing at a parade route trying to catch the best throws in the group, but to use that time to explore different parts of the world (although snow skiing and going to the mountains in general was always a favorite for me).
Photo by...some random person. It was a long time ago, I don't remember.
I'm not the only Southerner who does this. Trust me; I have tons of friends who love to bail on Fat Tuesday and go to Disney World for shorter lines and what not.
That's the funniest thing to me; no matter where we go, we always meet fellow Louisiana locals who took a quick escape for the holiday as well. (Seriously, go to Colorado for snow skiing during Mardi Gras season; the trees along the slopes are covered with Mardi Gras beads.)
That is what Mardi Gras has become for me; an excuse to get out there and see the world while it's just a little less crowded.
I'll always be thankful that my parents started taking us out of town for Mardi Gras. I credit my love for the mountains and exploring (which is the biggest part of my life now) to those vacations. I am who I am because I started skipping this holiday.
Hiking in the Smoky Mountains for Mardi Gras
Photo by Karley Nugent
Well, I guess saying that I'm "skipping" Mardi Gras isn't the correct term. I think it's more accurate to say I've just learned to love celebrating it in a different way.
So, whether you're partying on the parade route, or off climbing mountains somewhere with a pair of plastic beads proudly strung around your neck, I say to you, laissez les bons temps rouler.
And as I also say (every time)...