I was already well aware of the fact that St Louis had quite a large Mardi Gras celebration. In fact, it's the third largest in the world and it takes place right here in Soulard. Being from New Orleans originally, this was not only a bonus to living there but also a hint of home. What I was not aware of was that Soulard residents truly make it at least a month long affair.
My memories of Mardi Gras as a child are still very clear. You get school off (at least 2 days that I can remember), you wear costume, and you beg for all sorts of worthless trinkets as loud as you can. You even get to bring home a gigantic bag of beads and doubloons that will sit in your closet for at least a year before you throw it away. What many people don't know is that Mardi Gras is celebrated for weeks before the actual Fat Tuesday celebration. There are multiple parades leading up to the big day so by the time you are filling up your bag on Mardi Gras day you've already got 2 bags at home. Plus there's King Cake. Lot's of it. You eat it for every meal: Breakfast, snacktime, lunch, afterschool snack, desert after dinner, second dinner, midnight snack, sneak-a-taste time, etc. Suffice to say New Orleans residents are in the party spirit for longer than just one day.
It was only my third night in the apartment when I heard drumming down the street. It had a familiar sound to it so I popped my head out the door to see a full Mardi Grasish parade heading my way. It was a group of maybe 40 people all costumed up and throwing beads. As they passed my apartment dancing and waving I realized this was 12th night. For the non-Mardi Gras peeps, 12 days after Christmas is the start of Carnival season which goes all the way through to Mardi Gras itself. So yeah, that means you party on 12th Night.
As the weeks went on I found out about many Soulard Mardi Gras events that take place leading up to the big day. A list can be found here. Apparently the Dog Parade itself brings in crowds over 100,000. The only disappointment I've come across is the lack of King Cakes here in St Louis. I thought for sure they would have some at the Farmers Market to no avail. I've found a couple of local bakeries online that sell them but I doubt their authenticity. I may have to get one shipped in. Other than that I'm definitely in the party spirit.
It isn't too often parades go by your apartment like that. I have to say it was an awesome welcome to the neighborhood.