Pardi Gras – What A Party!
If you’re yearning for great music, fun times and a perfect party weekend, then Pardi Gras in New Orleans is right up your alley. Always falling on Martin Luther King weekend, the Trop Rock music festival is hosted and engineered by Jerry and Mary Diaz. This year marked seventeen years of musical merriment.
We arrived on Thursday in time to check in at the wonderful host hotel, the Bourbon Orleans. Bags deposited in the room, we made tracks to Coop’s for a fantastic lunch of some of the best fried chicken in the French Quarter. Coop’s is right across the street from the Margaritaville Cafe, so we strolled over to watch the taping of the weekly Radio Margaritaville New Orleans Margaritaville Happy Hour show. I finally got to meet Greg Dumas, who is the longtime radio personality heard on the show. We also enjoyed brief segments of music from Dani Hoy, Gene Mitchell and Thom Shepherd. This is a really fun afternoon activity that I hadn’t attended before, but it was a great start to the party weekend.
A new activity for this year was a tasting of Margaritaville brand foods at The Grapevine, which is right across from the entrance to the Bourbon Orleans hotel. The Grapevine is an upscale restaurant and wine bar owned by Pam Fortner and Earl Bernhardt, who are the owners of Tropical Isle. Pam and Earl are an integral component in Pardi Gras every year. They help sponsor the truly unique Friday night parade through a portion of the French Quarter and many of the musicians perform either on their main stage, upstairs at the “Top of the Trop,” or at the second location of the Tropical Isle a few blocks away from the original bar.
Friday found us zipping around to several venues to hear the fantastic performances. Some artists are musical fixtures each year and others were new to the event this year, such as Matt Hoggatt. Mike Nash, of the Southern Drawl Band, was the “grand marshal” of the annual Pub Crawl down Bourbon Street. A short break after the Pub Crawl, (just enough time to wolf down a Lucky Dog!) and it was time for the parade. A local marching band started us off and between the four floats with Pardi Gras attendees riding on top and the various Parrot Head Clubs cavorting in the parade, tourists on the sidewalks were thrown buckets of beads!
Saturday brought more music and a major change in the annual afternoon Street Party…. no party in the street! Jerry Diaz and his band, Hannah’s Reef, put on a tremendous show inside Tropical Isle instead of on the traditional outside stage that spans Bourbon Street. Apparently, new law regulations caused the change, but hopefully Bourbon Street will once again be crowded with Pardi Gras revelers next year.
Thom Shepherd put on a wonderful show Sunday morning at the ticketed brunch and Sunday afternoon played host to “Fools on Stools” at the Top of the Trop. Jerry Diaz, Brent Burns and Jim Hoehn played many of their favorites and various other Trop Rock artists sat in a on a few songs.
Throughout the long weekend, the King and Queen of Pardi Gras ruled the fun. Each year a King and Queen of Pardi Gras are chosen by the “Pardi Gras Krewe” and are chosen for their support of Pardi Gras and Parrot Head spirit. This year, Brian Watson and Mo Baumler were crowned and sported their crown and tiarra the entire time. It’s a true honor to be chosen and reign!
Pardi Gras should be on the “to do” list for all who enjoy great music and a super time with like-minded friends. It’s a wonderful collage of songs and smiles and I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
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