What goes up, must come down. The same applies for Mardi Gras throws.
While people will wave their hands and scream for anything from plastic beads to cheap stuffed animals, most of what is tossed off floats ends up stomped on and left behind for street sweepers to gather at the end of the night.
Mid City Gras sees throws a little differently. The self-proclaimed “nutty” parade and nonprofit launched in 2018, with a squirrel mascot and a mantra of showing off the creativity of the community its parade rolls through.
Mid City Gras encourages its members to give out handmade items that those in the crowd would want to keep instead of discarding on the street.
In another effort to promote sustainability in Mid City, the parade also prohibits krewes from discarding trash off their floats.
“Since its inception, the parade was meant to not only bring the community together, but to really encourage inclusivity and to have things that people would like to keep (after catching), instead of just a lot of junk,” Mid City Gras Vice President Leslie Gilliland says. “One of the things that really sets us apart from most other parades is there’s this emphasis on the handmade—or if nothing else, something that’s meant to be kept.”
Its krewes think outside the box about what to toss to the crowd. Some create keepsakes like printed coasters and welded metal cutouts. Others forage like squirrels to find acorns, discarded king cake babies and charms. Armed with glitter and glue, they upcycle the trinkets into magnets, bracelets and handmade strands of beads.
“When you walk out after the parade, there’s almost nothing on the ground, unlike most parades where there’s just a bunch of beads that nobody wants or just a bunch of trash,” Gilliland says. “That’s part of the goal. We have not told any of the krewes that they can’t throw plastic, but we’re strongly encouraging handmade and crafted.”
These one-of-a-kind pieces can take more time, effort and money to put together. But Gilliland says the parade’s moderate size—with a 3-and-a-half to 4-mile route and crowd of a few thousand—helps make it doable. The keepsake-throw approach also works because Mid City is home to many artistic people eager to show off their craftiness.
“Right now, and hopefully forever, we are keeping that neighborhood parade,” she says. “It’s of the area, and it’s an illustration of the area because that was always the idea. And, it was always the mission to stay inclusive and not feel exclusive.”
A few mass-produced plastic beads and typical Mardi Gras throws will likely find their way into the parade. But Gilliland says the prevalence of handmade and reusable items grows each year. It’s good reason for those in the crowd to pocket items to keep and treasure—long after the last float or walking krewe rolls on by.
Catch the parade
Mid City Gras rolls down North Boulevard on Sunday, Feb. 4, starting at 1 p.m.
This article originally appeared in the February 2024 issue of 225 magazine.