Mini-Flood 42: Soulard Mardi Gras

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photograph by Dan Henrichs Photography, St. Louis

St. Louis’ Mardi Gras celebration began as a small event staged by a group of friends, but has since ballooned into one of the nation’s largest. Depending upon where you are positioned along the parade route, Mardi Gras in St. Louis can be either a raucous affair or family friendly. This year, PFSTL has received media access to the event, for a full behind-the-scenes look at what goes on.

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photograph by Dave Adams

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photograph by Sue Rakers

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photograph by Kathy Crabtree Brown

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photograph by Lina Walz-Salvador

The tradition of Mardi Gras is said to have originated centuries ago, when Roman Catholicism adopted several pagan celebrations into one official event. In the United States, Mardi Gras is thought to have been brought with French settlers to Louisiana in the 1700’s, although Mobile, Alabama refutes this and bills itself as the oldest. In other parts of the world, the event is called by various names (most-notably, Carnival in South America), where mixtures of local cultural traditions add flavor to the public spectacle. Rather than attempt to write the full history of this global phenomena, the following links are recommended for more information:

1. Global/General History
2. New Orleans Mardi Gras History
3. Catholic Perspective
4. Brazilian Carnival History
5. Musical/Jazz Heritage

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photograph by Kathy Crabtree Brown

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photograph by Jason Gray

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photograph by Dan Henrichs Photography, St. Louis

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photograph by Sue Rakers

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photograph by Joe Rakers

Although St. Louis does have several long-standing local traditions, Mardi Gras in Mound City has only been around for a few decades. In 1980, a small group of friends marched through Soulard in celebration of Mardi Gras, and by the following year, the friends had managed to organize what would become an annual event for the city. St. Louis Mardi Gras, or Soulard Mardi Gras as it is locally known, hosts several events between Soulard and Downtown during the lead up to Lent, including two huge parades, the Pet Parade and the Grand Parade (pictured in this post).

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photograph by Jackie Johnson

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photograph by Diane Cannon Piwowarczyk

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photograph by Jackie Johnson

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photograph by James Palmour

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photograph by Joe Rakers

The Grand Parade draws thousands of spectators to watch the colorfully decorated krews and floats pass by, drink in public with friends, and to capture as many Mardi Gras beads as possible. Though a passive look may suggest that these events are strictly for rowdy party-goers, the events generate lots of revenue for local charities, and for some, Mardi Gras is an annual family affair. Unmistakably, Soulard Mardi Gras is one of St. Louis’ most beloved events, and when the weather is nice, like it was for us, the city demonstrates why our local festival is considered one of the nation’s best.

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photograph by Diane Cannon Piwowarczyk

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photograph by Lina Walz-Salvador

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photograph by Dan Henrichs Photography, St. Louis

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photograph by Jason Gray

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photograph by Jackie Johnson

MAP:
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