Friday, August 3, 2018

New Orleans - Day 3

New Orleans is famous for their Mardi Gras Parade. What I didn't realize until our visit, is that there are actually many parades that happen between Epiphany (Jan 6th) and Mardi Gras. The date when Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is celebrated changes with the lunar calendar. Christians celebrate Fat Tuesday as the last day to eat rich foods before they begin fasting during the Lenten Season.

Mardi Gras world is the largest manufacturer in the area of floats. The warehouse closest to downtown offers hour-long tours for those who wish to know more about Mardi Gras outside of the popular season and in a more family-friendly setting.

The tour begins with a brief video explaining how the holiday is celebrated and evolved. One local tradition is to eat King's Cake during the holiday, especially on King's Day or Epiphany when Christians believe the Three Kings visited baby Jesus.  The cake has a tiny baby doll baked inside of it. Whoever ends up with the slice that has the baby has to host the next year's celebration.

After sampling some of the cake, we were allowed to tour the warehouse and see how the floats are made. When they were first made, artist used paper machet. The process was very time consuming and once made the elements could not be re-purposed. Over the years, the process has changed and now a lot of it is made of Styrofoam.

The process begins with an artist designing a sketch of what they envision. The sketched is then projected to magnify its proportions. The projection is then traced onto a block of styrofoam. The details are carefully carved and then sanded and painted.

Mardi Gras world even has a 3D cutting laser that will do the cutting of the largest pieces. Is is housed in a room with walls made of Plexiglas. The cut stirofoam is sucked into a bag by a large vacuum tube and processed so it can be re-utilized.

That afternoon we traveled on the steamboat Natchez along the Mississippi River.

Shortly after leaving, another afternoon thunderstorm drenched us. We tried to wait it out in the rain but it was just not feasible. I wondered if the captain would turn the vessel around, but he continued on and after what seem like an interminable amount of time the rain finally subsided.

Along the ride we saw a sugar factory. It's loading dock was on the river and we observed a barge get loaded with sugar. Even though we were a few hundred feet away, we could still smell the sweet aroma of sugar in the air as we passed Domino Sugar.

While on the boat we were also able to get a beautiful view of St. Paul's Cathedral from the water.

Andrew, who was once again exhausted from all of the walking around, fell asleep in my arms while the other kids went with Todd to see how the steam engine worked.

Our last stop for the day was the Satchmo Festival, honoring the famous Louis Armstrong who went by that nickname.

The festival was held in the grounds of the old US mint, which was open to the public during the celebrations.

While there we got to rest our feet while listening to some great performers, and then afterward we spent some time learning about the mint. The New Orleans mint is the only mint in the US to be operated by three different governments: the United States, the Republic of Louisiana and the Confederate States of America.

On display were coins that were discovered in 2003, 100 miles off of the coast of Georgia, after a ship containing a fortune in gold and silver coins disappeared on October 25, 1865.