The Maroon

Oak Street does Mardi Gras in August


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Many feel that Mardi Gras is the equivalent to Christmas in the Big Easy. New Orleanians trade their eggnog for cocktails, and being naughty pays off with beads, not coal. But some locals couldn’t wait until February or March to get their Mardi Gras fix, and Mid-summer Mardi Gras was born.

The annual street parade is held in late August and put on by neighborhood parade group, Krewe of O.A.K., which stands for Outrageous And Kinky. This year, the Mid-summer Mardi Gras celebration will take place on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m through midnight.

The summer parade begins on Oak Street at the Maple Leaf Bar and then weaves its way along streets in the S. Carrollton Street area. Although there isn’t a dress code, participants usually go out dressed as wacky characters. Costumes range from elephant suits to men wearing hot pants, and even detailed head dresses.

Mike Miller, owner of Carrollton Station, said the celebration’s curators are with Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street.

“They came up with the goofy idea that they didn’t want to wait all the way to Mardi Gras to have a Mardi Gras parade, so they made one on the last Saturday of August,” Miller said.

Ragan Wicker, Maple Leaf Bar manager, said that Mid-summer Mardi Gras started off as a “disorganized mess” around the 1980s but has since turned into an “extraordinary” tradition.

“People took to the streets one night and started parading with pots, pans and cow bells,” Wicker said. “Now Mid-summer Mardi Gras is getting bigger and bigger. We had upwards of 20,000 people come to it.”

Although they usually have a great turn out, Miller isn’t surprised that many people, even natives, aren’t aware of this “show-stopping” event.

“I don’t think that they advertise. It was kind of their thing, and now everybody is jumping on board,” Miller said.

Wicker said that they don’t want to advertise. If you hear about the event, then you were destined to be there, she says.

“It’s not something we want to be huge; it just ends up that way,” Wicker said.

Mid-summer Mardi Gras even has its own kings and queens now. Wicker was honored as the queen of the Krewe of 2009.

Sociology senior Charles Bourg and former Loyola student James Phelps heard about the event and were able to attend last year. They both raved about everything from the extravagant costumes to the foam pool in the bed of a pick-up truck.

“If the cold beer wasn’t enough to suppress the heat, a quick dip was readily available,” Bourg said.

Phelps said he appreciated all the hard work that people put into one night. He believes that the Mid-summer Mardi Gras is a quintessential New Orleans event.

“Anything fun, loud and questionably legal is a classic New Orleans event,” Phelps said.

Bourg encourages students to check out Mid-summer Mardi Gras because the experience will be “unforgettable.”

“There’s so much to do there in that small section of Oak Street. Go out and have fun before the semester really gets started,” Bourg said.

Diana Mirfiq can be reached at [email protected]

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Oak Street does Mardi Gras in August