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Before Katrina - a personal memoir of New Orleans' Mardi Gras festival

Jeanne-Marie lived in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina struck, and these are her personal impressions of the Mardi Gras festivities.

Posted 20-Feb-2014

by Jeanne-Marie Kenny

Enjoying the spirit of Mardi Gras

You can see a movie presentation of Jean-Marie's photographs here

I first visited the city of New Orleans in 1996 and I knew straight away that it was the place for me. After more trips over several years, my husband and I finally moved there in the summer of 2004. Of course, living there was quite different from visiting as tourists, but we loved it. Early in 2005, having never been to a Mardi Gras parade before, we set out to watch as many as possible. The carnival season lasts several weeks and in all we went to 18 parades.

My expectations of Mardi Gras had been influenced by having seen the film Easy Rider as a teenager. But the view from the French Quarter is only a fraction of all that goes on during Mardi Gras. We found that outside of the French quarter, the atmosphere along many parade routes is surprisingly family friendly.  In fact, many families stake out their same place on the neutral ground year after year with ladders for the children to perch upon and even pitching tents and cooking on barbecue grills.

When we moved to New Orleans we planned to stay there for good, but because of a new job (in Liverpool) we moved away a year later. Less than a week after we left, hurricane Katrina hit the city and we watched the daily news in dismay as the city to which we had hoped to return was destroyed. The photographs I took while living there have become more special and have enabled me to hold onto my memory of the place it was before.

It will be a long while before the city recovers and although Mardi Gras was held this year, it was overshadowed by the devastation. This selection of photographs from 2005 reflect the spirit of the carnival season as it was and hopefully as it will be again.

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