Norman lights up Main Street with 18th annual Mardi Gras parade
The smell of beignets and cigar smoke filled the air on Main Street on Saturday in downtown Norman as floats revved up to parade from the train tracks to Porter Avenue for the 18th annual Norman Mardi Gras Parade.
The winter chill didn’t turn people away, as about 200 people lined the road wearing gold, green and purple with masks and light-up swords.
Melodie Lettkeman, The Oklahoma Daily
Best Walking Entry — Medieval Faire Krewe
Unidentified Rolling Object — The Secret Society of Onery Okies
Best Lights — Dragon on Wheels/ Sellar’s Krewe
Best Music — Zydeco Allstars
Doggiegras — Thunderbird Veterinary Hospital
Norman’s Wackiest Family — Rivermont Retirement Community
Spirit of Norman — Scissortail School of Art
Best Overall Creative Entry — Dragon on Wheels/ Sellar’s Krewe
The event was well-produced in comparison to previous Norman Mardi Gras parades, University of Central Oklahoma student and event attendee Travis Pierce said.
“This year seemed more lit up and well put together,” Pierce said. “I really like the jazz band as well as the nine-foot Satan puppet.”
Attila Balazs has been involved in the parade for the past four years, and performed as a jester on Saturday.
When the weather is not favorable parade organizers expect to see fewer people attending, he said.
“[Saturday] night there were many brave souls battling the weather,” Balazs said.
Balazs became involved in the parade after he and a few friends formed a performance group called “The Prairie Folk Circus”.
The group’s talents include fire dancing, unicycling, juggling, choreography, and hula hooping on stilts, Balazs said.
“Our decision to enter the Mardi Gras Parade was a no-brainer, as we were already warming up for [Norman Music Festival],” he said.
The main difference between the New Orleans festival and the Norman parade is that in New Orleans the festival lasts for weeks, Balazs said. It started Feb. 6 this year, he said.
There were about 30 floats in the Norman parade, a steady increase from the past few years, Balazs said.
Some floats were boats that had been decorated in Luau garb, others were trailers with bands playing Cajun music or the blues. Cars and busses dotted the parade with gold, green and purple.
“We had so many entries for floats that the front of the line met the back of the line,” Balazs said.
Mardi Gras can be fun for the whole family despite popular perceptions about its debauched nature, Balazs said.
“A more accurate portrayal is a family friendly event, [where] the adults just have access to more fun,” he said.
The parade rolled by the crowd throwing of beads and items such as plastic alligators and fragrant pipe-cleaner roses flew from the floats into the hands of attendees.
Awards were given at the end of the parade by a panel of judges who used the noise level of the crowd to crown the winners, they said.
Awards for best walking entry, best lights, best music, best doggie-gras for the parade’s canine participants, Norman’s wackiest family, spirit of Norman and overall creative entry were among the prizes handed out.
The only thing Pierce would have changed about the parade this year was the date and attendance, Pierce said.
“I think it could be a pretty cool downtown event if allowed to expand a bit and actually be on Mardi Gras,” Pierce said.