Easter parades capture New Orleans' unique mix of spiritual, temporal

Easter parades capture New Orleans' unique mix of spiritual, temporal
April 5, 2010
By David Hammer
The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com

he French Quarter is filled with more refined frills and finery than usual this Easter Sunday, but even those heading to the St. Louis Cathedral for Mass found a way to party in true New Orleans style.

See more photos from Easter in New Orleans

As five horse-drawn carriages and four convertibles wound their way through the historic streets, carrying about 40 church-bound women and girls in their Easter best, a mix of locals and tourists lined the route seeking throws of plush bunnies and decorated eggs.

"An Easter parade: They don't have that in L.A.," said Beverly Furukowa, who, along with her husband Robert, is trying to cram as many classic New Orleans experiences as possible into their first visit to the Crescent City from Hacienda Heights, Calif.

That's the reaction the women of the Historic French Quarter Easter Parade are hoping for as they have set off from Arnaud's restaurant to the 11 a.m. Mass at the St. Louis Cathedral each year since 1954.

"Easter is a joyous occasion," said the group's president, Donna St. Louis. "We just enjoy seeing all the children and families out here. It makes Easter perfect, I guess."

Some of the women are in their 70s and have been riding for decades. And then there's 11-year-old Linkyn Mays, who drove in from Lake Charles to ride in her first.

EasterEliot Kamenitz / The Times-PicayuneFour year old Garrett Peach gets a Easter Egg filled with candy from a young rider in the Historic French Quarter Parade as it leaves from Arnaud's Restaurant. They all wear big straw hats, teeming with flowers and greenery, and dresses with big buttons, in bridal whites, bright pinks or pastel blues. Their husbands dutifully walk alongside the carriages, usually wearing seersucker or linen suits with panama hats. Many of the women make their own hats and buy a different dress each year, specifically for the parade and post-Mass promenade through Jackson Square.

Still, the members take great pride in the fact that they're the only Easter parade group that makes Mass an integral part of the celebration.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to get to church, instead of just parading," said Pat Kahn, whose deep pink dress was balanced with a white hat adorned with orchids and a long hat pin. "We're not forgetting God. Plus, it's good to have the Cathedral see everyone in their finest."

Some of the parade-goers also look ready for Mass. But again, that distinct New Orleans flavor emerges when a man in a ladies' hat festooned with flowers rides by on his bicycle.

Tourists aren't the only ones drawn by the scene.The Tabora family from Metairie, with twins Kenneth and Johnny, their wives Jaime and Lisa and the two couples' sons, cousins Jack and Kyle, both 4, enjoyed a little "stay-cation" by enjoying the warm spring weather and watching the parades. Instead of fancy hats, the women wore matching Easter bunny ears and the children played with a plush throw tossed by one of the ladies in the carriages.

05easter2Eliot Kamenitz / The Times-PicayuneFloat riders in the Chris Owens French Quarter Easter Parade toss beads and toys as they ride down Bourbon Street.Being from Indianapolis, John and Susan Peach and their four kids were impressed by the unique expression of Easter joy. But they were constantly reminded of what some locals consider a semi-religious event a few months ago, one that took place at the Peaches' expense - the New Orleans Saints' 31-17 victory over their Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

"That's OK," John Peach said of the Saints' victory. "New Orleans needed it."

He'd only be reminded of it more as the day wore on. Following up on the black-and-gold Mardi Gras just past, Chris Owens' 27th annual Easter Parade featured nine floats and a half dozen other vehicles, several with a Saints championship theme.

And later in the afternoon the Goodchildren's Easter Parade was all about the Saints, with a Bywater procession entitled "Amen to Dat!" The day's festivities were to wrap up with the Gay Easter Parade in the French Quarter at 4:30 p.m.
Comments: 0