My first go-around with Mardi Gras in New Orleans came in March 2000. I had just started a TV producing job at WSAZ in Huntington, WV a few months before. And, at that point in time, new hires at the station typically weren’t allowed to use any vacation time for their first six months there. But I was able to negotiate a few days off within that first six month window (before I signed my contract) for one reason: I had already made plans to travel to New Orleans for my first Mardi Gras experience.
My Mardi Gras debut was supposed to have happened one year prior, in February 1999, in the last semester of my senior year of college at the University of Evansville. One of my Phi Kappa Tau fraternity brothers and I had it all lined up, and I even managed to extract myself from work responsibilities at both my college radio station and the TV station I worked at during my college days.
I went so far as to contact my professors and ask them for their permission. The small college experience was a good one, though one downside was that teachers took attendance. So I wanted to have my bases covered. The response was almost all positive, with notes like “Have fun!” and encouraging type of comments included in responses from my teachers.
But there was one professor, who I won’t name, who was a prick about it. He responded with a terse retort: “Let me get this right, you want to miss my class to go party down at Mardi Gras?” He even CCed all of my other professors on it. Lovely. His class was one I had to pass to graduate, and I had already shown my hand by asking permission meaning that a cover story wasn’t going to work. Plus I’m not big on lying. So the 1999 trip had to be called off.
In 2000 I finally got to experience Mardi Gras. The literal Mardi Gras night, Fat Tuesday, isn’t the peak day: that honor belongs to the Saturday night before Mardi Gras. It was so packed on Bourbon Street on the Saturday night before in 2000 that the crowd literally picked up my high school buddy Mike (a small guy) and me (6’2″ 220, not so small) with a crushing shoulder-to-shoulder lift where we were helpless to do anything but go along with the crowd to wherever it happened to be taking us, lest we fall and potentially end up trampled. That was not so fun.
The parades leading up to Mardi Gras are great, Bourbon Street is amazing in so many unusual ways, but that Saturday night before Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street was downright frightening. New Orleans is a unique city that really knows how to party, but if you can’t handle excessive crowds, I urge you avoid Bourbon Street in the days leading up to Mardi Gras.
New tonight are the latest legal IDs I have uploaded from my most recent trip to New Orleans which happened last month. Included in the update is the legal ID for Citadel’s Rock 92.3 WRKN, a station that had flipped to rock less than two months before my visit. The 92.3 signal covers much of both New Orleans and Baton Rouge with a city-grade signal, but it targets New Orleans, and so that is where I put that station’s ID.