If ever there was a year to revive the tradition of using Lundi Gras as a day to rest up before going all out on Fat Tuesday to wrap up Carnival, this might have been it.
Christmas and New Year’s celebrations ended just 38 days earlier. Almost 60 parades had rolled in New Orleans and surrounding communities between Jan. 6 and Monday morning, and 10 more were on tap before Mardi Gras concluded.
But it was clear Monday that lying low would not be an option for many in the area, whether Carnival royalty toasting their fellow monarchs, riders gearing up for the season’s final evening parades or ordinary revelers flocking to a pair of festivals on New Orleans’ riverfront for food, drinks and free music.
However, though the day was sunny, often-blustery winds made chilly temperatures seem even colder and for a while caused concern that the evening parades might have to be canceled or curtailed.
“I will probably sleep Saturday,” said Jay H. Banks, who will reign as king of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s parade in New Orleans on Tuesday. “Because between now and then ... I have to do stuff with — everybody.”
Few people on Monday were as busy as Banks or the man who on Tuesday would reign as Rex, King of Carnival — Michael Kearney.
Banks’ day began with a limousine ride out to the Rivertown section of south Kenner, where he and the man reigning as king of the Krewe of Argus’ Tuesday parade in Metairie — Michael Hollis — exchanged toasts.
Then Banks planned to eat lunch with family and close friends before boarding a Coast Guard cutter and sailing to Woldenberg Park along the Mississippi River in the French Quarter, where thousands of his club’s supporters began showing up to await his arrival at Zulu’s annual Lundi Gras Festival almost immediately after the gates opened at 10 a.m.
Kearney, for his part, was headed for an evening arrival just upriver from Woldenberg Park, at Spanish Plaza, where Rex held its annual Lundi Gras on the Mississippi festival featuring a day of live music from groups such as Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Cowboy Mouth. Kearney arrived at the fest by train, courtesy of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. His predecessor last year was the first Rex since the 19th century to show up at the Lundi Gras party in that fashion.
And, like Banks, Kearney had a monarch to visit beforehand — saluting the 2016 King of Proteus at that krewe’s den on Bordeaux Street before its Monday night parade. It was the first such toast ever held between the two organizations, both well over 100 years old.
A spokesman for Rex said the “new Carnival tradition” would have started last year, but inclement weather forced Proteus — which never discloses the identity of its king — to roll earlier than usual. The Rex spokesman said the toast is meant to emphasize the historical bonds between New Orleans’ two oldest parading Carnival organizations.
There also were plenty of packed calendars on the Carnival hierarchy’s lower tiers.
For an out-of-towner on her first visit to New Orleans like Andrea Valle, of Washington, D.C., wasting Monday resting in the hotel for Tuesday wasn’t even a consideration, she said. Her reward: A group of Zulu dukes and maids told those listening and dancing to DJ Jubilee’s set at the Lundi Gras fest that they would give one of the organization’s prized coconuts to the loudest person in the crowd — and Valle, 33, proved herself worthy by screaming out where she was from and why she was there.
Though he grew up in New Orleans and had to report for work at a French Quarter hotel later in the day, Charles Jones, 61, showed up at the festival for a plate of food and a set of jazzed-up Motown tunes. He said it never really crossed his mind to spend the daytime hours Monday catching up on rest, of which he’s had precious little, given that his hotel has been either full or nearly so since the Bayou Classic in late November.
“This is too nice,” Jones said, motioning toward the music behind him and two ships sailing the Mississippi nearby.
Meanwhile, if anyone had an excuse to sit out Monday, it was Roland “Sonny” Borey, the co-founder of the Krewe of Orpheus, whose parade rolled along the Uptown route Monday.
Borey gathered his krewe at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on Monday and told them his 94-year-old mother, Helen Koenig, had died that morning at home.
But, standing near fellow krewe founder Harry Connick Jr., Borey said nothing about sitting out the parade. He just asked his fellow members to raise their Champagne flutes and dedicate their impending ride to her honor.
“She was big on Carnival,” said Borey, whose mom owned Broadway Bound Costumes, popular with debutantes in need of ball gowns as well as Mardi Gras Indians creating their elaborate suits. “In fact, she was involved in Mardi Gras my entire life.”