Beads draped from trees like Spanish moss after the floats pass on St. Charles Avenue. Beads by the pound slung around every neck in sight, from preschoolers to frat brothers to grandmas planted in camp chairs along the parade route. Beads tossed for more lascivious gain off balconies on Bourbon Street.
As floats pass, throngs of revelers standing as many as a dozen deep flail their arms and shriek in hopes of scoring some plunder.
But it’s not just beads that get flung during parades for Carnival, which culminates on Fat Tuesday — February 13, 2018 — in New Orleans and its sister cities along the Gulf Coast. The sparkly strands stand among a plethora of so-called “throws” that fly through the skies as dozens of parade organizations, known as krewes, take to the streets in an annual demonstration of generosity that unfolds between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday.
There are sunglasses with toilet-seat flip lenses, plush spears and pillows adored with images of iconic floats. Plus swords glistening in LED splendor, horns that emit ear-piercing wails and enough plastic cups to hold every cocktail in the book. And of course, the glitter-speckled coconuts and hand-adorned high heels that are so prized they become mantle pieces long after the last costumes get packed away for Lent.
This succession of swag, with each item more imaginative and coveted than the next, sets Carnival parades apart from the average Fourth of July or Labor Day procession. Along these routes, children — and adults, for that matter — don’t just want a lollipop from the Shriners.
They want beach balls and hand-jeweled purses and rubber ducks. And the krewes, always trying to outdo each other, happily oblige.
“The people don’t want itty-bitty beads,” said Lloyd Frischhertz, an attorney who in 1969 founded the irreverent Krewe of Tucks, which along with hand-decorated toilet plungers this year threw small plastic toilets with two lollipops that react with Pop Rock-style candy to create a sugary, frothing pot.
Float riders pay their own way and often pony up $2,000 or more each to buy the loot they throw from floats. So, it becomes a point of pride to hold the “it” throw of the season — the item that, when it’s waved from atop a crawling float, elicits the clarion call: “Throw me something, Mister!”
“It really is the single element that separates Mardi Gras parades from parades everywhere else: You don’t watch a parade; you’re part of it. It’s interactivity at its finest,” said Arthur Hardy, a local media personality who bills himself as “the world’s foremost authority on Mardi Gras.”
The tradition of throws dates to 1922, when the Rex Organization — whose monarch…
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