Revelers enjoy a family friendly carnival experience across the Parish
Carnival season is celebrated throughout Louisiana, from Twelfth Night, January 6, until Mardi Gras Day, the Tuesday before Lent. And while Big Easy revelry is what most people associate with the world’s biggest party, the purple, green and gold takes on its own personality, depending on where it glitters and gleams.
Throughout The Northshore, from the rural towns of Bush and Folsom to the Mandeville lakefront to the small-town charm of Pearl River, Slidell and Covington, Mardi Gras is a party. Many of the elements are familiar— the themed throws, high school marching bands, dancing krewes and of course, floats of all shapes and sizes.
What makes Mardi Gras so special in St. Tammany Parish is that friends, families and neighbors celebrate in the place they call home.
Pride of place with family-friendly themes make for an easy, stress-free Carnival. There’s action—the light-up floats, signature beads and marching bands—but the vibe is friendly, approachable and accessible, making it easier for parents with little ones in tow to relax and have a great time. And most events and after parties are free, making Mardi Gras easier on the wallet. Spectators should plan to park early and enjoy the party before the parade rolls, as many streets are blocked at least one hour before the official start time.
There are dozens of krewes and parades all over The Northshore, some zany, some more traditional but all big fun. Here are just a few highlights to plan for as Carnival and king cake season looms large.
Covington is home to some of the oldest Carnival krewes in St. Tammany Parish. What’s especially fun is that Carnival season isn’t contained to a parade route. Instead, the reveling spreads throughout the picturesque walkable downtown, with costumed locals celebrating at local bars and restaurants before, during and after parades.
With its Medieval English theme, the St. John Fools of Misrule defines a rollicking good time for its members. The 300-plus members that power the Mystic Krewe of Olympia transform Covington into party central, with marching bands, floats and lightning-themed lighted throws letting the good times roll. On Lundi Gras (the day before Mardi Gras), the Krewe of Bogue Falaya's revives a hundred-year-old tradition with its Lundi Gras Second Line from Bogue Falaya Park to Southern Hotel, and on Fat Tuesday, it’s an all-day party with the 20-float procession by Krewe of Bogue Falaya and the 65th parade by the Covington Lions Club. Immediately following the parades is a free party at the Covington Trailhead with live music, food trucks, costume contests and fun for the kiddos. The last Northshore parade of the season, held on Sunday after Fat Tuesday, is Mardi Paws, one of three canine-powered Northshore parades that serve as fundraisers for local animal welfare organizations.
SLIDELL AND PEARL RIVER
The action in Slidell is super-sized, with big numbers of riders, floats and marching groups defining Carnival season. The krewes of Titans, Dionysus and Poseidon, and the Bilge boat parade, are veteran krewes known for putting on extravagant Mardi Gras spectacles featuring popular local marching groups with local school marching bands keeping the beat. Krewe de Paws takes over Olde Towne Slidell, with costumed critters and their humans putting on the dog along the one-mile route. Antheia and Selene are two all-women krewes that bring glamour, community, love and positivity to the parade route. Mona Lisa and Moon Pie celebrates the arts with a march through Olde Towne, which is also the place to be on Mardi Gras Day as the Krewe of KIDZ Wagon Parade rolls through the historic district, followed by live music all day.
In Pearl River, the Lions Club sponsors a day-long parade and whole-town celebration, with high school bands and cheerleaders, floats and local church and community groups rolling with plenty of Pearl River pride.
In Mandeville, the first Northshore parade of the season unfolds along Lakeshore Drive with the Mande Kings Day Parade, led by the red-and-white polka-dotted Mande Milkshakers who lead the procession to the Mandeville Trailhead for a free party. The town’s first all-women group, though, is the Krewe of Eve, a tremendously popular night parade with 800 riders that displays beautifully decorated floats, costumed riders, and marching bands and features coveted LED light-up throws and glittered apples for thousands of spectators to enjoy. On Lundi Gras, the Children's Museum of St. Tammany hosts the Kids Krewe Parade, and, on the Saturday after Mardi Gras, Krewe du Pooch delivers a tail-thumping street party along the lakefront.
Then there’s a boats-only Krewe of Tchefuncte parade in Madisonville, with its colorfully decorated boats sailing the scenic river to dock on both sides of the Highway 22 bridge. Costumed riders toss signature beads and other throws from ship to shore.
In Abita Springs, the zany Push Mow parade rolls down Main Street, a slice of creative silliness that holds to offbeat themes. Named for the push-style lawn mowers that local artists decorated for the first parade in 2002, the procession and its humorous themes have been a tradition ever since. An after party at Town Hall includes prizes awarded for best costumes.
BUSH, FOLSOM AND LACOMBE
The free-to-ride, roll-or-walk parades in Bush, Folsom and Lacombe give a big shout out to local businesses, firefighters and police officers during these celebrations of civic pride and small-town Louisiana. Northshore Mardi Gras is more than just a great time. At every parade, with every string of beads thrown into the crowd, every brass band in formation, every dance step, the sense of community is what’s really rolling.
What to Bring to Mardi Gras
- Sunscreen and a hat for day parades
- Purple, green and gold attire and accessories to stand out
- Collapsible chairs
- Parade friendly cuisine—Beverages (no glass), king cake, finger sandwiches and fried chicken
- A big bag for your throws
- Comfortable shoes for walking and standing
Mardi Gras Terminology
"Fat Tuesday," refers to the day before Ash Wednesday, marking the end of the Carnival season.
The period of celebration leading up to Mardi Gras, typically starting on January 6 (Twelfth Night) and ending on Fat Tuesday.
Social organizations responsible for planning and organizing their parades, balls and other festivities.
Elaborately decorated platforms or vehicles that “roll” during Mardi Gras parades and carry members of the krewe who toss throws to the crowd.
The items thrown from the floats to the spectators, such as beads, doubloons (aluminum or wooden coins), cups and toys.
A sweet, circular cake typically topped with icing and colored sugar, often with a hidden trinket or figurine inside. It is the traditional Mardi Gras treat.
LAISSEZ LES BONS TEMPS ROULER
A French phrase meaning "Let the good times roll," commonly associated with Mardi Gras and used as a festive slogan.
MARDI GRAS COLORS
Purple (justice), Green (faith), Gold (power)
To search the latest information, find a king cake and check parade times for Northshore Mardi Gras, go to VisitTheNorthshore.com/mardi-gras.
Photos by Kevin Garrett