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Are Mardi Gras Beads Worth Going 'Girls Gone Wild'?

February 17, 2009 at 3:20 PM | by | ()

What’s the deal with Mardi Gras beads? Every year there is new footage of drunken ladies baring all just to get their hands on a string of cheap plastic beads. That got us thinking: how did it all start, and how do we get in on the action? More specifically, what do we have to do to get the best beads. After all, Mardi Gras is only a week away.

With a little diligent research, here’s what we found out. Apparently the cheap trinkets thrown from various floats at Mardi Gras rack up millions of dollars in sales each year, with individual float riders disbursing nearly a thousand dollars worth of junk each. That means everyone in the crowd is sure to go home with something—even if it’s just a hickey and a bad hangover.

Though the parades in New Orleans started in the 1830s, the tradition of “throws” to the crowd began in the 1920s when the “krewe,” or members, of the Rex Float tossed glass bead necklaces to the crown. Soon all the floats were doing it.

Back in the day, the beads were made from Czechoslovakian and Japanese glass, but now they’re just plastic in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green representing justice, power and faith respectively. Nowadays, the most prized throws are the hand-painted coconuts handed out by the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club krewe. (That's the best name ever!) Obviously, those coconuts are handed out rather than thrown, for obvious reasons.

So what about the beads-for-bare-breasts trade-off? That dubious tradition became the rage in the sexually liberated 1970s and doesn’t happen at the parades themselves, but usually afterwards once the drunken revelers filter back into the French Quarter. Needless to say, if you are baring your breasts for beads then you probably don't care about which ropes of plastic balls are thrown at you.

Insider Tip: if you go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, don’t expect to catch the parades in the French Quarter or on Bourbon Street—the lanes are too narrow. The action is all over on the main thoroughfares of St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street, so be sure to head over there. And keep your shirt on.

Related Stories:
· Mardi Gras Travel [Jaunted]

[Photo: Manus]

Archived Comments:

The waste!

I've never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but the environmental impact of all that plastic being thrown around must be staggering.

re: the waste

I'm totally with you! Especially because my friend from New Orleans said that at about midnight, the cleaning crews come through and just hose all the streets down, so goodness knows where everything runs off! Blech.