Mardi Gras has always been — and is increasingly becoming — a festival of contrast. It is an event that is uniquely lived by every person in New Orleans along with thousands of visitors, resulting in a holiday that truly has no singular experience. Parents who have seen a lifetime of parades may bring their daughter to her very first, while standing next to somebody who has never been to New Orleans, and who maybe will never come back. Crowds can turn from good-natured, cheering gatherings to screaming, rowdy mobs in just a few hours or just a few blocks. People of every age, race, gender, class, and sexuality, in every state of mind and consciousness, who otherwise may have absolutely nothing in common gather on the streets and stand centimeters from each other for beads, or music, or photos, or fun.
This gallery highlights three distinct Mardi Gras experiences: Sunday’s children’s parades, Bacchus, and Orpheus’s Battle of the Bands. And although the reasons for coming out and celebrating may differ as wildly as the people who are doing the celebrating, there is a commonality: we all want to feel like we’re a part of something, whether or not that something has anything to do with Mardi Gras.