The word Chivalry comes from the French word for horse and referred to the knights of old and their ideal behaviors of bravery, honor, and high courtesy and respect extended to women, though looking good on a horse and riding it gracefully would probably squeeze past the definition for some folks. During this years Mardi Gras I saw a bit of chivalry that I feel compelled to comment on because I was impressed with the character of the man as displayed in his chivalrous behavior. I had been thinking of writing this article after watching the Mardi Gras parades, more specifically the Lily parade, the Saturday before Mardi Gras. I was hesitant to write it as I wasn’t sure the mayor of New Orleans would appreciate being compared to a knight on a white steed. Then he rode into the mayors reviewing stand on a white steed… So I don’t figure he would have too much problem with the concept.
My reason for considering the title, “Chivalry is Not Dead in New Orleans!” had nothing to do with horses. On Saturday they were predicting rain and the mayor juggled the schedule a bit so that the biggest parade that was set for Saturday (Endymion) was moved to Sunday after the Bacchus Parade, the first time in history those two parades were one after another I am told, while other parades were moved around to fit in the projected dry spots. It turned out that the Iris parade was not to be so lucky as to have a dry spot. Towards the begining of the Iris parade I was observing the mayor as he spoke with staff who were asking if he was going to continue with the parade or if he would cancell it. I heard him boldly shout to his staff that, “We’re Staying!” In spite of the fact that he was getting cold and wet, he was determined to stick it out.
Soon he was toasting the Queen of the Lily parade and folks had umbrellas to try to keep dry. By my estimate, by this time the mayor was soaked but he was braving it and I was getting wet, even though I was wearing a rain poncho. I heard him shout to the parade staff to get the queen off her float and get her into the mayor’s reviewing stand where she would be able to get to shelter should the storm become more severe (which seemed to be where it was heading.) She indicated that she was going to stay on her float and continue with the parade and seemed to be working on securing herself to the float. At that point I saw the mayor looking on at this brave woman and I saw his resolve weaken. Where not more than five minutes previous I had seen a man determined to stick it out, I saw a him put his pride and determination aside in deference to the her needs. At that point he called a halt to the parade as the rain and winds picked up and most folks fled the stands like rats flee a sinking ship.
I watched as the mayor’s reviewing stand emptied and then looked around and saw that the mayor was gone and the Queen of the Lily parade was still trying to get off her float. She was heading toward the opposite side from the reviewing stand and I ran around, realizing what was happening. I got to the other side just in time to snap a photo of the mayor and a police officer helping her down off that side of the float and then they swept her off to the shelter of Gallier Hall.
The rain continued pour for about 15 minutes while the floats sped past, still throwing their prizes at the few remaining viewers (I got hit by a couple bags of beads.) By the time the rain stopped the water was up to midcalf in spots and Mardi Gras throws were floating down the street. When the last float trailed off into the distance I walked away with an admiration of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and a bag full of water logged Mardi Gras goodies.
For more photos check out my Mardi Gras 2011 photo albums.