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7 Things You Need For the Best 4th of July Bash Ever

The 4th of July, also known as Independence Day, is one of the most anticipated holidays of the summer!

That’s why we’ve created this helpful guide to celebrating America’s birthday with everything you need for an unforgettable event!

So, if you’re in search of inspiring Fourth of July party ideas, check out our list of exciting activities, food, decorations, and more must-haves to make your July celebration the best yet!

1. Patriotic Decorations

Embellish your 4th of July party planning with patriotic decorations! Whether you are a DIY crafter extraordinaire, or you prefer to leave decor to the pros- you need some red, white & blue if you plan to have the best 4th of July party ever!

Here a few trendy decorating ideas to get your party planning juices flowing:

  • Craft an American flag-inspired centerpiece using mason jars, streamers, and white & blue colored accessories.
  • Bunting in stars and stripes can add a festive touch to your linens.
  • For tables, a red, white, and blue tablecloth will make your food displays pop.
  • Don’t forget the balloons, confetti poppers, and sparklers for that extra festive touch. They may be a bit cheesy, sure, but it wouldn’t be a party without them! Most of these items are available on Amazon for easy delivery.

2. Fireworks Display

Nothing says a 4th of July party quite like a fireworks display. If local regulations permit, consider a DIY fireworks show while observing all the appropriate safety precautions, and maybe skip the firecrackers!

Here are some safety best practices to keep in mind if you plan to include fireworks on your party decorations list:

  • Follow local laws and regulations
  • Purchase fireworks from reliable sources—never use homemade
  • Keep water handy
  • Use fireworks outdoors and maintain a safe distance from people and property
  • Read the instructions and only light one firework at a time
  • Protect your eyes with safety glasses if lighting fireworks
  • Dispose of fireworks safely
  • Keep pets indoors to avoid their emotional stress
  • Supervise children around fireworks
  • Do not consume alcohol while using fireworks

3. A Menu of Summer Cookout Favorites

A BBQ is the cornerstone of any Fourth of July party. So grill up, potluck, or order catering for classics like hamburgers, hot dogs, and skewers. Include a variety of appetizers and 4th of July party food like watermelon that are easy to hold and eat with your hands since your guests will likely want to socialize.

Here are a few ideas, as well as some alternative themes if good ole-fashioned Americana is not quite your speed.

The Classic American BBQ

  • Starters: Deviled eggs, a veggie platter with dip, and cheese and crackers.
  • Main Course: Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with all the fixings, barbecued chicken, corn on the cob, and a vegetarian option like grilled portobello mushroom caps.
  • Sides: Coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, and a green salad.
  • Dessert: Apple pie, s’mores, and patriotic jello cutouts.
  • Drinks: Iced tea, lemonade, soda, beer, and a selection of wines.

A Southern Seafood Feast

  • Starters: Shrimp cocktail, clam chowder, and a Caesar salad.
  • Main Course: Grilled salmon, lobster rolls, fish tacos, or boiled crawfish.
  • Sides: Corn on the cob, summer squash, and a pasta salad.
  • Dessert: Blueberry pie, key lime pie, or cupcakes and ice cream.
  • Drinks: White wine, sparkling water, and a signature cocktail like a mojito or margarita.

Vegetarian BBQ

  • Starters: Caprese skewers, guacamole with chips, and a Greek salad.
  • Main Course: Grilled veggie burgers, portobello mushroom steaks, and vegetable skewers.
  • Sides: Grilled corn, sweet potato fries, and a quinoa salad.
  • Dessert: Fruit salad, vegan chocolate cake, and popsicles.
  • Drinks: Infused water, vegan wine, and a selection of craft beers.

4. Plan Fun Games

Planning games for a 4th of July party or event can add a lot of fun and excitement to the celebration. Here are some 4th of July party game ideas that will appeal to both kids and adults:

  1. Cornhole: This classic lawn game is a hit at any gathering. You can even customize the boards with stars and stripes to stick with the patriotic theme.
  2. Ring Toss: This simple game can be made more festive by using glow-in-the-dark rings when the sun goes down.
  3. Sack Race: This traditional game is easy to set up and lots of fun. You could offer a small prize for the winner to increase the competitive spirit.
  4. Patriotic Scavenger Hunt: Hide small American flag-themed items around your party area and give the kids a list of items to find.
  5. Pin the Hat on Uncle Sam: A 4th of July spin on the classic Pin the Tail on the Donkey game.
  6. American History Trivia: Test your guests’ knowledge of U.S. history with some fun trivia questions. This could be a great activity for adults while the kids are busy with other games.
  7. Patriotic Bingo: Before the party, create bingo cards with symbols and themes related to Independence Day, such as flags, fireworks, and eagles.
  8. Glow-in-the-Dark Capture the Flag: As the night falls, a glow-in-the-dark version of capture the flag could be a lot of fun for kids and adults alike.

5. DIY Photo Booth

When planning a memorable 4th of July party or event, setting up a DIY photo booth can be a fun and interactive way to capture lasting memories.

Begin by selecting a well-lit and easily accessible location. It should be an outdoor setting that provides ample natural light and space. The backdrop, which sets the tone for the pictures, could be a patriotic-themed sheet, a big American flag, or a DIY design with streamers, balloons, or fairy lights for an added fun element.

On a nearby table, provide a variety of props for guests to use when taking their photos. These could include items like sunglasses, hats, wigs, inflatable props, small flags, pinwheels, or anything embodying the spirit of red, white, and blue. Don’t forget signs with fun sayings like “Let Freedom Ring” or “Stars and Stripes Forever”.

The type of camera you use will also play a big role. You might opt for a Polaroid or instant camera for a vintage feel and immediate prints. Alternatively, setting up a digital camera on a tripod with a remote shutter release allows guests to take their own pictures. A smartphone with a photo booth app can also be a great modern option.

If the party goes on into the evening, consider the lighting for your photo booth. String lights or a lamp can offer soft, flattering light.

It’s also helpful to place a sign near the booth with clear instructions on how to operate the camera. If you’re using an instant camera, specify how many pictures guests can take to ensure you don’t run out of film.

Don’t forget to share the photos if you’re not using instant film!

6. Send Your Guests Home Happy With Party Favors

Creating memorable party favors for a 4th of July party or event is a fun way to ensure your guests carry the festive spirit home with them.

One idea could be mini mason jars filled with red, white, and blue candies or customized cookies with patriotic icing. You could also consider small pinwheels or handheld American flags that they can wave during the party and take home later.

For a more unique touch, consider crafting DIY favors. Personalized star-shaped keychains, or even small patriotic-themed trinkets or magnets, can serve as thoughtful keepsakes.

If you’d like to give a favor that’s a bit more functional, consider red, white, and blue bandanas, sunglasses, or even flip-flops which guests can use during the party and beyond.

7. Most Important: Book the Right Band!

The right 4th of July playlist is critical to set the mood and keep the energy up all night during your event. While a DJ or bluetooth speaker are certainly an option, if you want to really give your attendees a night they won’t forget, consider hiring a New Orleans style brass band like The Brass Animals.

And for the grand finale, why not hire a brass jazz band? party to new heights, providing an experience that no playlist can match. Our unique blend of jazz with modern pop and hip-hop will add an unbeatable energy to your Independence Day celebration.

Want to make your July 4th party even more special? Contact us today for a quote.


12 Themes for Your Company Christmas Party

Company Christmas Party

You have a coveted seat on your office holiday party planning committee. It’s up to you to make it a standout and memorable event. One-by-one your coworkers come to you and ask, “So what’s the theme of this year’s Christmas party?” Confused you reply, “Um, Christmas?” Well, duh. And snore. Just because it’s been done since the dawn of time (or the foundation of the company) doesn’t mean you have to do it the same exact way year after year until the end of time. In fact, that’s precisely why you should mix it up.

So, how does Christmas have a theme other than Christmas, you ask? Ho, ho, ho, you’re a silly pup. Sit back and tell you a thing or two about how to add a theme to your holiday partying.

1. Christmas in Vegas

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Skip the kiddy party games, casino night is for the big boys and girls. Of course, you should still make it holiday themed (who calls dibs on dealing blackjack in a Santa Suit?) but roll out the dice and the poker chips and find out who Lady Luck thinks is naughty or nice. Buuuut since Christmas is about giving to other, you might opt to make it a charity fundraising event where winnings go to a worthy cause.

2. Christmas Time Machine

Christmas Time Machine 2019 Brass Animals Brass Band

Have you ever felt like you were born in the wrong era (“I would have roared the hell out of those 20’s had I been there!”)? Here’s your chance to go back in time with an era-themed party (less expensive than a time machine, and less likely to completely rearrange the history of mankind). Maybe you love the Great Gatsby style glitz, fashion, and art deco of the 20’s. Maybe you’ve always wanted to rock around the clock in a poodle skirt in the 50’s, want to relive the free love hippy days of the 60’s, or break out your neon MJ Hammer pants from the 80’s and tease your hair to great heights. Can’t pick just one? Great news—Christmas comes around every year so switch up the era you’ll pay homage to every December.

3. Christmas Karaoke

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Whether you’re Mariah-esque in your version of Santa Baby (in your mind at least?) or you need a couple of egg nogs before you can muster the courage to grab the mike and perform Jingle Bell Rock (complete with the dance moves you choreographed for you and your friends back in your school talent show), karaoke Christmas can be a fun time to bond over good and bad singing. Though Christmas songs should definitely be on the list, it doesn’t have to be all holiday tunes—mix it up with hits that different generations have loved singing in the car to for decades.

4. Luau

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If your already sick of winter by the time the holidays come around, don’t just join the

Cold Weather Complainers Club do something about it. Well we didn’t mean move south; we were talking about something a bit less drastic like a tropical theme to your holiday party (a reverse Christmas in July). Crank up the heat in the office, mix the Mai Tais, break out the coconut bras and grass skirts and pretend you’re all in a wonderfully warm tropical place for a few hours.

5. 12 Cocktails A-Mixin’

I mean honestly, what would you do with 3 french hens and 8 maids a-milking anyway—you don’t even own cows! But you can give the everyone something they can love—signature cocktails (and mocktails for those who prefer the non-alcoholic version). You don’t have to bartend and mix them all yourself—pick several helpers to create and mix fun cocktails or even themed-cocktails (Christmas, winter, tropics, etc.) for the party. Set up stations for each cocktail/theme and have non-cocktail makers bring signature dips or other treats (if you’re doing a theme, assign them a station with like-themed cocktails) to contribute. You’ll have all the ladies dancing and all the lords a-leaping over this one (responsibly, of course).

6. Holiday Ho-down

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Have everyone trade in their snow boots for country boots and their ski hats for cowboy hats and let the line dancing begin. If you haven’t already guessed, we’re talking country-themed Christmas. Put on country Christmas songs (and mix it in with regular country songs), rustle up some catered BBQ, and let the whiskey sours and porch tea flow freely.

7. Snowman Party

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Your company may include people who don’t celebrate Christmas or other religious-based holidays during the end of the year, so a snowman party to celebrate the beauty of winter can be a fun and inclusive alternative. Hold a marshmallow snowman contest, have people contribute their favorite warm winter recipes, and set up a fancy hot chocolate station with tons of accoutrements (candy canes, mini-mallows, rock sugar, etc.). You’ll also find that there is no shortage of snowman and winter décor around, so have a (snow)ball with it.

8. Christmas in Paris

Christmas in Paris 2019 brass animals

Your end of year bonus may not have taken you as far as Paris (hell, it barely afforded you that package of croissants), but you can still have a Christmas full of elegance in a City of Lights of your own making. Go glitter and gold with your decor, break out authentic French foods like champagne, French wine, and French pastries, and foie gras, set up bistro tables with flowers and little Eiffel Towers, and of course, have plenty of elegant lights. Who needs the hassle of a trans-Atlantic flight, anyway.

9. Christmas Around the World

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So maybe Paris isn’t your thing (that’s cool, who needs amazing food and wine, amiright), but you have a great appreciation for the cultures of the world. Or perhaps your place of work includes people from many different cultural backgrounds. Celebrate diversity and the beauty of different traditions from around the world with a global potluck. Have everyone choose a country to research and make a traditional holiday dish. Make a playlist of holiday songs from around the world and even create a holiday trivia game based on the traditions of different cultures. Let everyone enjoy a little world peace.

10. Classy Christmas Masquerade Ball

Christmas Masquerade ball 2019 brass animals brass band

If you’re going big this year (renting a venue, lots of invitees, etc), a masquerade ball combines class, decadence, and mystery. Have everyone dressed to the nines for a night of twirling on the dance floor and flirtatious unmasking (have we been watching too many period dramas?). You can have guests bring their own masks or give out masks that they can decorate themselves (provide markers, glitter, feathers). Bring in a live band that can get everyone on the dance floor and has the versatility to mix in slow jams with party favorites (and maybe even some classic ballroom numbers if you’re feeling extra fancy and also have been watching too many period dramas with ballroom scenes).

11. Winter Wonderland

winter wonderland christmas 2019 brass animals brass band

Maybe you want to go classy but take it down a notch from the mysterious masked flirting and to-the-nines-dress-up. A winter wonderland theme can be magical, elegant, and even cozy. White and blue décor and lighting, elegant twinkle lights, ice sculptures, vodka cocktails, and foods that warm the body and soul, and perhaps glitzy semi-formal attire—turn the venue into a winter palace that will melt even the frostiest hearts.

If you want to go less formal with your winter wonderland, that’s fun, too. Give out gifts of cozy scarves, have everyone break out their best plaid and flannel shirts, bring in polar bear and penguin décor. Or consider taking the party outside to an ice-skating rink.

Either way you want to go, there’s tons of ways to celebrate the coldest time of the year. Face it, Cold Weather Complainers Club, it’s wintertime, so you might as well embrace it.

12. Festivus

festivus christmas 2019 brass animals brass band

And then there’s a holiday theme for the rest-ivus. Maybe your company is diverse, maybe everyone isn’t into the traditional holiday doings, or maybe you are all just huge Seinfeld fans—a minimalist Festivus Christmas complete with Festivus Meatloaf dinner and Festivus Pole might be just the thing for you. If you decide to go with the traditional Festivus Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength, keep it chill—you all still have to see each other at work the next day.

No one wants to play boring party games or *gasp* have to come up with small talk to strangers, co-workers’ significant others, or colleagues that they see nearly every waking hour of their lives and know everything (you want them to know) about you. Themed holiday parties are an alternative way to add some fun to your end of year parties, give everyone something to do besides stare at each other, and definitely provide fodder for the company gossip mill. Happy partying everyone!

Things to do in Austin, Texas

I love Austin, Texas. The combination of food, music, and southern culture speak to my core. Fortunately with the band, I’ve had the opportunity to perform in Austin many times. Because I also have a lot of family and friends there, I’ve started to get to know the city pretty well.

For those who are taking a trip to Austin but don’t know what to do, I’ve put together a few food, activity, and music recommendations that you should check out.

My Favorite Food In Austin

Check out Bangers Sausage House & Beer Garden on Rainey Street. My buddy Ben owns it. They have a killer Sunday brunch, the largest craft beer tap wall in Texas and awesome live music.

Franklins BBQ is world famous but you’ll wait 2-3 hours to get a table and eat. Totally worth the wait if you’re with a bunch of friends.

Salt Lick BBQ is also world famous (I send clients and friends BBQ from here for special occiasions) and has a killer vibe. If you’re willing to drive 30-40 min then you won’t regret the trek.

Blacks BBQ is in town and is awesome. I’m a little bias because it’s my initials “B. Lack” but the brisket is outrageously good. The ribs and sausage is also excellent and their sides are totally worth getting.

Best TexMex options are El Chile Cafe y CantinaMaudie’s Cafe, and Julios.


Float the Guadalupe River. Bring a 6-12 pack, tie it up to your tube and float for 2-3 hours on a nice sunny day. The most relaxing thing I’ve ever done in Austin.

Rent a boat on Lake Travis and chill with the other boaters.

Walk by the Texas State Capitol. It’s a pretty cool building and a good selfie pic.

Walk around the University of Texas campus. It’s beautiful and worth feeling like a college kid again. While you’re there. See if there’s a University of Texas football tailgate or game going and crash the tailgate or the game.

Zilker Park is where ACL takes place. So if you want to just chill on a blanket and hang, then that’s a good spot to go.

South Congress Avenue has some beautiful murals worth checking out.

For night life, either hang out on 6th Street downtown or Rainey Street.

In the morning, get breakfast tacos at Torchy’s or TacoDeli (both taco chains)

Austin Music Scene

There’s live music EVERYWHERE. But some of the more famous spots are below. If you want someone to take you from one killer show to the next, then hire Michael, the Texas Music Dude (he’s my cousin).

The Continental Club is legendary. I’ve seen multiple bands that I’ve never heard of before with my cousin and loved it.

ACL Live at Moody Theater is a sweet venue and amazing experience if you can get ticket. Killer feel inside and the sound is great. Free tickets are available for tapings by lottery.

Elephant Room has the best jazz in the city. I’ve seen multiple shows here and the musicians are top notch. Go here for late night to wind down.

The White Horse – features country, bluegrass and Cajun music. And an awesome place to dance the two-step with your friends or anyone that’s there.

St. Elmos Brewing Company has refreshing beer (that’s what my friends tell me, I don’t drink beer) and an awesome outdoor patio that almost always includes a live band performing.

We’ve played there before and the folks took real good care of us.

If you end up visiting something that isn’t on this list that you think I should go explore, then please share your thoughts in the comments.

14 Cocktail Party Secrets

1. Create a Budget:

Man Using Calculator And Counting Budget, Expenses And Savings.
Man using a calculator and counting budget, expenses, and savings. Low-income family living cost and rising prices concept. Calculating and budgeting. Making retirement plan. Writing notes on paper.

Yea, we know that sounds like a snore. You don’t want to have restraints when it comes to perfect party-throwing! But having an idea of how much and where you want to dedicate your funds can prevent you from going all out in one area and then suddenly realizing you are too cash-strapped to properly fund another area (Like the booze. Party foul!)


2. Set the Stage:

Brass Band Brassanimals 14 Cocktail Party Secrets2

Pick an idea, theme, or focal point and stick with it. There is a mind-numbingly vast array of party ideas, and you might find that you like them all! But just like when putting together an outfit or decorating your house, less can be more (when you mix 5 bold prints no one knows where to look and it causes sensory overload that leads to mental collapse! Or at least a lot of eye-rolling). Otherwise, you may end up in a mish-mash of ideas that leave guests wondering if there were two cohesive thoughts that found their way together during the entire party planning process.

When you have one focal point or theme it not only stands out (making your party stand out), but you also have a solid structure to build your party around. It gives you direction and helps you zero in on the best ideas for your unique soiree.


3. The Guest List:

Word, Writing, Text  Guest List. Business Concept For Planning W
Word, writing, text Guest List. Business concept for Planning Wedding Or Event Important Guests Lists written notebook book paper the wooden background Today

It’s tempting to add your besties or the usual go-to party peeps, but it’s also great to mix things up a bit. Of course, have your go-to guests on the list, but add in other interesting or entertaining characters (think less sloppy drunk drama-stirrer types and more “Most Interesting Man (or Woman) in the World’ types) that can bring something fresh to the party and mingle well with others.

4. Grab Interest With Your Invites:

Brass Band Brassanimals 14 Cocktail Party Secrets4

Sure, now that everything is done digitally, good old paper invitations are almost a novelty, but here’s the secret—you don’t have to use paper either. Give your guests a taste of what they can expect (also generates buzz and excitement) by using objects as invitations. For example, dollar store cocktail glasses with an invitation tag tied around the stem. If you are crafty enough, personalize each glass with individual names in paint. Or say your party is a Mardi Gras/masked ball kind of theme, print the invitation on the back of party store masks, and give them out to guests. It’s not only unforgettable, it’s usable (even to bring to the party) long after the party is over.

5. Have a Signature Cocktail:

Brass Band Brassanimals 14 Cocktail Party Secrets

Well obviously there are going to be cocktails at a cocktail party,but one signature drink can be the highlight of the booze selection. It is even cooler when it goes along with the party theme. Just for instance, say your party has a 1920s-based theme. Break out a prohibition era cocktail like a Bees Knees, Sidecar, or Southside Fizz. Or you can tap into your inner bartender and come up with your own unique concoction (which you’ll get to make up an ultra-awesome name for, of course).

6. Create a Food Hop:

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An idea similar to a bar or party hopping, only with food—and your guests don’t have to go anywhere. You already know you need some party foods, and you might have an idea of what you want them to be. But here’s where most people slip up—having the same food out all party long. I mean, your guests can only eat so many cream-cheese crab balls or fancy pigs-in-a-blanket before they’re over it. Don’t let hungry guests have to pick over the same foods all night—serve different foods at different times. You may have the olives, cheese, or charcuterie out for the first hour then move on to setting out a variety of hot hors d’oeuvres over the next couple of hours.  You can cap the night off with a round of finger desserts to keep the energy going. If you have the space for it, create food stations all around the party.

7. Decoration Do’s and Don’ts:

Brass Band Brassanimals 14 Cocktail Party Secrets7

Put down the paper streamers and back away slowly. This is an adult cocktail party is it not? We know you can come up with something better than that. This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be an element of fun or lightness to your decorations, but cocktail party decorations should have some sophistication to them.

Decorations can be as simple as fresh flowers strategically placed around the party zone, used as centerpieces, and/or placed on food and drink tables—perfect for an elegant theme. Maybe your party theme is a bit more elaborate. A party with a nautical theme could include wooden lanterns with fishing nets, driftwood accents, and blue and white color schemes.

Here’s a secret—food and drinks can be part of the décor. Again, with a nautical-themed party you might make your signature drink using blue curacao, salted rims, and nautical drink stirrers. A party with a 60’s theme might have a table set up with low-ball glasses, martini shakers, garnishes, and champagne cocktails in glasses. Pre-make the drinks and set them up on the table with everything else that goes along with it, creating an attention-grabbing focal point.

8. Create ambiance:

Brass Band Brassanimals 14 Cocktail Party Secrets8

Decorations set the theme, but ambiance sets the mood. Candles, string lighting, or dimmed lights can create an elegant or relaxed atmosphere for the party. As an added bonus, low lighting can help partygoers feel just a little bit less self-conscious and have the perfect amount of light for awesome selfie-taking.

9. Don’t forget the laughs:

Party At Swimming Pool. Group Of Cheerful Girls At The Edge Of T
Party at the swimming pool. Group of cheerful girls at the edge of the swimming pool drinking cocktails and laughing.

For some, cocktail party might conjure up images of a stuffy affair where people talk about stuffy subjects like stocks and the economy. For others, it may strike terror into their heart to think that they have to spend hours coming up with conversations (and ways to get out of conversations) with people they know or even worse *gasp* strangers (cue the horrified shrieking and intense sweating). This is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?

There’s no doubt that sometimes even the closest friends run out of things to talk about and it can be awkward for people who don’t know each other to just strike up a conversation. Placing ice-breaker conversation cards–especially ones that lend themselves to humorous responses—around the room can help get the conversation going or keep it flowing, encouraging funny stories or witty comments. We’ve even seen icebreaker cocktail napkins that come with fun facts, and sayings, or that you can customize yourself. Don’t let your guests flounder for stuff to say, give them a hand.

10. Don’t forget to mingle:

Brass Band Brassanimals 14 Cocktail Party Secrets
Photo of businesspeople with flutes of sparkling champagne singing Christmas songs

Speaking of not letting your guests flounder, get in there and be a part of things. You might be so busy with various party essentials, bartending, or hiding behind hosting so you can introvert in the kitchen by yourself, but you need to get in there and have a good time, too (or help your guests have a good time). After all, you are the one common denominator between all your guests and can act as a bridge to introducing people and opening up the way for conversations.

One of the secrets here is planning ahead. Think of your guests and what various ones might have in common so that you can help them along (“Did you know Susan has a creepy doll collection just like you? Discuss!”). There’s no shame in thinking of things to say ahead of time. Have a few funny stories or cute anecdotes in mind that you can break out to keep things lively.

11. Details make the difference:

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They sound like such a small thing and you might think it’s not worth the effort. After all, who will notice or even care (especially once everyone is 2 or 3 cocktails in). But they do matter. One grain of sand is totally insignificant but lots of grains together make up a beach. Little details can help pull together the whole party or the theme and can create micro-memories. Don’t forget things like custom ice cubes that are made with juice or wine or have fruit, mint, or candy frozen into the middle. Have a little bit of glitz to jazz up the food table or get creative with garnishes. The possibilities are endless—imagine away!

12. Plan your playlist:

Brass Band Brassanimals 14 Cocktail Party Secrets12

With all the other party planning things you have to do, the easiest way to throw music into the mix would be to attach your iPhone to some speakers and put it on shuffle. But do you really want to worry that your unedited gangsta rap might pop into that lineup and offend your boss or you’re secretly downloaded 90’s boy band album is going to make its musical debut?

A little bit of planning can prevent a download “How to quit biting your toenails” self-help podcast from creating your worst party faux pas’ nightmare (NOT speaking from personal experience!). Take a few minutes to create a party-appropriate playlist that features upbeat music that keeps guests bopping and tapping their feet but won’t overtake conversations.

13. Chuck your playlist and go with a live band:

Brass Band Brassanimals 14 Cocktail Party Secrets
Brass Band in uniform performing in USA

Everyone forgets a pre-recorded party play list, but no one forgets a live band. Your teenage neighbor’s heavy metal garage band might not the direction you would want to take with a cocktail party, but a brass band adds the perfect amount of sophistication to a cocktail party. Many brass bands have repertoire’s that go beyond just jazz and can bring in lively renditions of popular songs or other genres at just the right volume.

14. Don’t forget to get your guests home safe:

Brass Band Brassanimals 14 Cocktail Party Secrets

Cocktails, food, decorations, and a thousand other details might be on your mind, so it can be easy to forget the after-the-party part. Many guests will have had drinks, and the secret to being an ultra-host is to plan for a safe aftermath. Have an Uber app or taxi company phone number at the ready, ask designated drivers to volunteer beforehand, or have a space where partiers can sleep over if necessary.

Most of all, it’s no secret that you want to prepare well, don’t let the stress get you, and allow yourself and your guests to have a good (and ultimately safe) time.

The Complete Guide to throwing a NOLA-themed party


A little search engine told us you are thinking of throwing a New Orleans inspired party. Bien joue! You’ve made a fantastic decision! New Orleans-themed parties are chock full of rich culture, amazing food, rockin’ music, vibrant costumes, and an air of celebration and festivity. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a great time in our book.

There are so many ideas though, that your head might be spinning before you’ve even taken your first sip of bourbon. One of the great things about a NOLA-themed party is that you can choose which direction you want it to take and yet still keep true to that fabulous New Orleans style.

For instance, feel free to choose the level of fanciness and formality you want your party to have. You can hold a glamorous and courtly ball-like affair complete with hand-delivered invitations or host a backyard crawfish boil in cutoffs and a tank top (flip flops optional). There are also a variety of themes that will keep your party within the realms of New Orleans.

It doesn’t really matter the reason for hosting the partybirthday, anniversary, Mardi Gras, bachelor/bachelorette parties, or just because you love throwing kick-ass parties that people talk about for years—we’ve got some work to do to help you throw a NOLA-themed party like a true New Orleanian.

1. NOLA Inspired Desserts

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carnival cake with colorful beads

Guess what party people, you can have your cake and drink it, too. A traditional part of Carnevale and Mardi Gras festivities, King Cakes are sweet, doughy cakes covered in brightly colored sugar and cinnamon and have a hollow center (where little trinkets like plastic babies are placed). This is not only a classic NOLA-themed party dessert, but at some point a genius also invented the King Cake signature cocktail to help wash down all that cake.

Along the same lines, the traditional drink of NOLA parties is the Hurricane—a brightly colored juice cocktail combined with light and dark rums to create a fruity bomb of deliciousness in a glass.  It’s the perfect drink to chase down colorfully sprinkled hurricane rum balls (hide them from the kids). You can also find quite a number of bourbon-infused desserts that can be served with—well, bourbon. Just bourbon. Check out the link for other New Orleans-y desserts like bananas foster, beignets, and pralines.

2. Traditional New Orleans Foods

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New Orleans Grillades and Grits – medallions of various types of meat conventionally beef veal and pork. breakfast or brunch over grits they are a traditional Creole food

We may have gotten a little excited about the desserts and in our sugar rush, skipped right past the whole dinner/”real” food part (our moms would be so disappointed in us). But if you are planning on serving more than just dessert and cocktails, there are plenty of foods traditional to a New Orleans party.

The people of New Orleans make up a rich and vibrant cultural mosaic—diverse and colorful pieces that work together to create an entire picture (or in this case, menu). Spanish, French, African, and German cultures have each contributed traditional food that gives us buffet-like diversity of typical New Orleans fare. Sure, you can make just one, but New Orleans style is about going all out, so try not to restrain yourself.

Traditional food ideas:

3. New Orleans Music is a Must

The answer is no, it’s not a real NOLA party if there isn’t music. Consider this part non-optional when it comes to this type of event. Music is a key part of the whole experience and it’s definitely not something you’ll want to skip.

Just like New Orleans, cultural variety has contributed to its unique food scene, and those same cultures have also contributed to the city’s lively and exuberant music traditions. So, what kind of music makes a NOLA party a NOLA party?

  • Brass Band/Jazz
    —New Orleans is probably best known for its jazz music, most often performed by talented brass band musicians. If you want to add an extra element of awesomeness to your party, hiring a brass band is the way to go. Great brass bands don’t just have jazz in their playlist repertoire, some are able to perform other types of music (like dance and hip-hop) with a jazzy flair. The highlight of a NOLA party is a brass band that gets the party rolling with a second line parade or —a sure bet for creating a memorable time.
  • Ragtime
    —It may be a lesser known genre of music to many, but this springy piano-centric sound actually made its way onto the late 19th-early 20th-century party scene before jazz.
  • Bounce
    —Another energy-infused style of music, bounce is New Orleans’s own indigenous version of hip-hop, originating in the city in the late 1980s.
  • Zydeco
    —A Cajun version of the blues mixed with some gospel, accordion music, and Afro-Caribbean rhythms, Zydeco takes an unlikely mash-up of sounds and turns it into something totally danceable.  

If you want to go the extra extra mile, a live band to greet your guests with music is the perfect way to start your party with footsteps that dance through the doorway. But no matter when you choose to get the music going, it’s just important that it’s part of the party.

4. What kind of décor is right for a NOLA party?

NOLA-inspired décor can vary widely, so the answer to that all depends on the type of party you want to throw. Courtly affairs might include elements of bayou-inspired driftwood as decoration or to go beneath serving dishes. Brightly colored flowers like larkspurs and tulips can be used as centerpieces (add some gold accents). Gold flatware, plates, and napkin rings (super fancy!) plus fleur-de-lis table runners can all be part of the setting.  

Less formal party décor elements might include bowls or hurricane vases filled with gold doubloon, colorful beads, and or music notes. Use gold, green, and or purple glitter around candle votives. Green, purple, and gold-fringed curtains can serve as backdrops or be hung in doorways.

The thing is, though, that informal and fancy can be somewhat subjective. There are so many décor ideas that we could fill a hundred pages with all of them, but we just wanted to give you a quick idea of some of the elements that would go into a NOLA party. So, mix and match the elements that you love to create your own unique party décor.

5. Party favors!

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Simple brown paper gift bags and boxes decorated with colorful curling ribbons. Close-up with shallow DOF.

Who doesn’t love coming home from a party with a bit of swag? Again, there are a million and one ideas for favors and it can get downright overwhelming. We’ll just talk about some of our favorite favors or things that give you a general idea of where your creativity can take you.

  • If your soiree is taking on a more French-inspired flavor, you might look for favor-sized delightfully aromatic French soaps. You can also choose from an abundance of fleur-de-lis favors like fleur-de-lis lollipops or choose gift bags that sport this iconic symbol of French royalty.
  • If crawfish are the highlight or theme of your bash, there are so many adorable crawfish-inspired favors like tiny plastic crawfish throw toys (the ones you’ll find in the link are also good for Mardi Gras themed parties), soaps, balloons, and bottle openers.

If your party has more of a Mardi Gras flair, there is definitely no shortage of great ideas here. Masks, beads, and doubloon coins for tossing are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. Personally, we love to really turn the party up with LED flashing light masks and glasses.

6. Costumes

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A row of Venetian masks in gold and blue

If you want your party costume to be whatever is decent enough to wear in your backyard without getting arrested, just do you! But if you are looking for some costume ideas with NOLA flavor, these are some of the main staples.

  • Mardi Gras is known for its vast and undoubtedly fun array of wild outfits. Costumes range from skeleton-inspired to African face paint to outfits made completely of peacock feathers. You’ll find no shortage of feather boas, wigs, light-up bracelets and other accessories, stove pipe or top hats, and long top coats.
  • If you want to do color-themed costumes, go with traditional combinations of gold, green, and purple (though other vibrant colors are not excluded).
  • Harlequin styles are also popular on the NOLA/Mardi Gras scene and often include masks or face paints that play on caricatured and often somewhat darker images of court jesters and circus clowns.
  • If you’re going glam with your party, elegant and stylish masks along with baroque-inspired attire add a classically French touch to it all.

If there is one city that knows how to throw a party, it’s New Orleans (after all, their motto is “Let the good times roll). Take some cues from their legendary party scene and it’s hard to go wrong when planning your own. Music and great food are must-haves while NOLA inspired décor, party favors, and costumes can take your party to the next (unforgettable) level of good times. Happy partying and we hope the good times roll for you, too.

How To Apply For A Parade Permit in San Francisco


What is a parade defined as?

Let’s talk super fun San Francisco police code definitions (idea for a new best seller?). According to Article 4, Section 366, it is a non-athletic event (debatable—have they ever seen a Mardi Gras, second line, or New Orleans Style brass band parade?) in which people proceed as a collective body for more than one block on foot, in any sort of vehicle, or riding on an animal and obstructs or interferes with the normal flow of vehicular traffic.

So, by definition, the mob that tried to storm Frankenstein’s castle was really just a parade for a cause. Sounds like it could have been a fun time. Anyway, you don’t need any pitchforks or creepy lightening-lit castles, your parade is going to be epic (and maybe someone will be inspired to write a literary classic about it).

Who do I ask about getting a parade permit?

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Permit fairy, are you there? Ugh, if only it were that easy. You need to apply to the jurisdiction where your parade is going to make its magic happen. And there’s paperwork involved. Yuck.

Might as well start this parade permit paperwork

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Here you go, take and fill out the San Francisco Police Department application. Once it’s been properly filled out, it goes to the permit officer at the police station in the area where the parade starts.

If your parade is so awesome it can’t be contained to one jurisdiction (and we hope that is the case), no problem. Just submit the permit application to:

Sgt. Frank Hagan, SFPD

Traffic Division Event Coordinator

850 Bryant Street, Room 154San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 553-1929

If there are any other government agencies that oversee the land where you are beginning or holding the parade, you’ll need to talk to them as well. For instance, if you are starting or ending your parade in or near a park, you need to get another permit from the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department.

How far in advance do I need to apply for a permit?

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The city of San Francisco recommends handing in your application at least 2 months before the event. It not only gives them enough time to process your permit, but it gives you enough time to appeal if they deny your parade (we know, who would ever want to deny something as awesome as a parade!).

Types of parades to consider

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You may have never seriously thought to yourself “I think I’ll throw a parade”. It sounds like it might be complicated and really, what kind of parade would I stage and why? Isn’t that for big organizers like Macy’s on Thanksgiving? The good news is, even regular people can organize and apply to stage a parade.

There are plenty of reasons to throw a parade. Some organize parades to celebrate holidays or commemorate important events or people. Some parades celebrate life in or an anniversary particular to a specific town or city. Of course, we couldn’t forget to mention the ultra-colorful and wildly fun Mardi Gras parades. But what about one of our personal favorites—the second line parade?

What is a second-line parade?

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Some have called it a festive moving block party, complete with spirited live music. Neighbors, friends, or social clubs usually organize these and head up the parade along with an honored guest (or guests) like a bride and groom. They actually make up the first “line” of the parade.

After the VIP first-line guests come to the brass band, enthusiastically leading the second line with lively music and often some killer dance moves and struts. Second-line parades are particularly great because, unlike most parades, it’s a very inclusive affairs. Anyone energetic enough to keep up can join in the parade, following the band and adding own their dancing and strutting to the fun.

Second-line revelers can also bring flare to the procession by adding to the beat of the band with hand clapping or pretty much any improvised instrument like sticks or bottles. Since a good deal of the movement and sound are made up as the procession goes, it’s fair to say that each parade is unique with its own distinct style based on its participants.

Originally, second-line parades were actually part of funeral and burial traditions that originated in West Africa. Some still carry on this upbeat tradition as a celebration of life, particularly for black musicians who are appropriately “buried with music”.

Nowadays, some bride and grooms get extra and add second-line parades to their wedding day festivities. They might hold them after the ceremony, choosing to parade from the ceremony site to the reception site. They are also held during receptions (help get even the most curmudgeonly wallflowers off their feet and dancing) or sometimes after the reception to close the night out with a bang.

Some couples even decide to celebrate in the streets with their second-line parade (and this is where the need for a permit would come in). In a typical raucous New Orleans second-line parade, police may blare sirens and clear the way for the bride, groom, and other paraders to dance their way down the street. Don’t be surprised when random people join in this type of parade, it’s almost impossible to resist! These parades usually go about 5-8 blocks and last around 20-30 minutes.

You don’t have to be in New Orleans (you might be in a city like San Francisco perhaps) in order to organize a second-line parade. New Orleans is happy to share their traditions with festive party people around the country and the globe. Wherever you decide to stomp your feet, just make sure you contact the local authorities and get your permit situation straight so you can parade without a care in the world.

Crawfish Boil

Whether you call them crawfish, mudbugs or crawdaddies, these small freshwater shellfish are part of a Louisiana tradition that has been binding families and communities for generations. Once Louisianans get past the brief cool spell they know as winter, they love nothing more than to get outdoors to cook, play music and celebrate well, you name it and they want to celebrate it—family, friends, good fortune, the list goes on. It’s part of the charm. But there’s nothing like celebrating with a traditional Louisiana crawfish boil.

Though crawfish were once highly underappreciated and even disparaged, people in recent decades started to realize how awesome they were, especially when boiled in a pot with lots of delicious stuff. That discovery in itself was plenty of reason to celebrate, and celebrate they do.

In this article, we’ll take a little skip through crawfish history, how boils started, what exactly goes into a crawfish boil, and most importantly, how to make your backyard boil the talk of the neighborhood.

A brief history of crawfish in Louisiana

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These small crustaceans are often linked to Louisiana’s Cajun people, descendants of French pioneers who had crossed the ocean and settled in Nova Scotia. In the mid-1700s, the British came along and told them to scram, so they headed south to warmer waters (which, if you’ve ever experienced a far Northeast winter, you’d know was probably a really smart move on their part). Legend has it that they missed the delicious north east coast lobsters they were eating so much that they spared no trouble looking for more. But the farther south they went, the smaller the lobsters were. By the time they got to the bayous of Louisiana, the “lobsters” were quite tiny. But tiny lobsters were better than no lobsters at all, and they were pretty tender so all in all not such a bad deal. So, there was nothing left to do but throw them in a boiling pot and celebrate ditching -35 degree winter temperatures while basking in the warm almost-tropical climate.

The Cajuns (called Acadians back then) can’t take all the credit for crawfish, though. They weren’t the first to discover crawfish nor were they the first to think of cooking and eating them (though they may have invented a pretty killer spice blend to put on them).  Long before the Acadians made their permanent snowbird journey south, the native tribes in the area were catching the mini crustaceans by  luring them with venison on the end of reeds or sticks.It might seem like a primitive method compared to today’s crawfish traps, but the locals knew what they were doing and hauled the crawfish in by the bushels. It’s probable that the Cajuns/Acadians learned about crawfish and how to catch them from the Native Americans.

Though there was an abundance, crawfish weren’t always the super fun and popular food they are now. Sure, before the Civil War days the rich and fancy loved to eat them in gumbos or bisques, but they came to generally be viewed as a “poor man’s food”. Many times, they were only eaten after a flood, when the poor little buggers became stranded on land and since they were there and easy pickins’ at that, people figured they might as well make a meal of them. For some, crawfish was good for nothing more than fishing bait.

How did crawfish boils get their start?

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Even up until the 1960s, crawfish had a bad rap and they couldn’t shake their stigma as a low-brow cuisine. They needed some serious PR to make over their image. This came in the form of the first crawfish festival held in Breaux Bridge, LA, the then newly minted crawfish capital of the world. The festival worked wonders for introducing crawfish as something truly great for everyone, rich and poor. With that, crawfish cuisine was on its way to being the hot new food rage across Louisiana. Restaurants started to include crawfish dishes (traditionally Cajun and newly invented) to their menus and everyone literally ate it up. It also helped increase crawfish sales, and prices per pound quintupled (well from $.5/lb to $.25/lb in the 1960s). In 1983, the crawfish earned the honor of becoming Louisiana’s official state crustacean (an official designation that was invented to give crawfish it’s due recognition as an official part of the state culture), giving everyone all the more reason to celebrate it with parties.

What goes into a crawfish boil?

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That is a great question, and we’ll dedicate this section as your crawfish boil mini how-to guide. When having a crawfish boil (often thrown as a backyard party), hosts shouldn’t be shy with the amount of crawfish provided. Depending on the number of guests, you’ll need a sack with around 40 lbs to 60 lbs of crawfish (maybe more). Once they are brought to the boil location, most people dump them into a bin or cooler filled with ice, water, and salt which helps to de-mud the mudbugs.

While the crawfish are getting their bath, a large stockpot is filled with water to boil. Cajun seasonings (some use seasoning packets) and herbs like thyme, marjoram, and bay leaves are added. There’s really no set crawfish boil recipe per se, so no hard and fast rule about what goes in next. It may vary by chef’s preferences, but there is almost always corn on the cob (cut in half), onions, garlic (whole bulbs). You might also find lemon halves, potatoes, mushrooms, and sausage in the pot.

Once the water is boiling, it’s time to dip the crawfish. They are usually put in a mesh metal basket and then lowered into the water for about 10 minutes. You’ll know the crawfish are done when they start to sink to the bottom of the pot.

If you want to go the authentic and traditional route for serving the pot contents once they are done, newspaper is laid out on the table and everything is dumped out on top. If you’re not feeling the newspaper, plastic tablecloths from the party store are also an easy option.

Since this is an informal type of affair, there’s no formal serving going on, everyone just grabs what they’d like, and the feasting begins. The joyful messiness of it all is a large part of the fun.

Though this is a feast all in one pot, there is no crime against serving side dishes. Homemade cornbread is an excellent complement to the pot contents and a fresh salad can keep things cool on a hot day. And of course, you’ll never go wrong with having some refreshing summer watermelon slices to sweeten the deal.

Throwing a crawfish boil party

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Although the crawfish are being sacrificed for the good of the boil, a true Louisiana style crawfish boil is anything but a funeral (which even in New Orleans can be a raucous party). If you’re in Louisiana or just love their style, you know that this is a party, darn it, and one thing Louisianans know is how to party. You probably get the basics by now, but we all know that the devil is in the details. Here are some added tips for throwing a truly terrific crawfish boil.

  1. Beer is a must.
    Besides laughter with good friends, beer is probably the next most important aspect of a crawfish boil (besides the actual crawfish). It’s a cool and refreshing contrast to the crawfish, though it’s preferable to have milder, not-too-hoppy beers that might compete with the taste of the crawfish. Some like to add bourbon to the drink selection that they offer their guests, and you won’t find us judging the choice.
  2. Bibs and wet wipes.
    This might be low country style without the fancy schmancy tableware, but there is no doubt that there will be delightfully messy fingers (and clothes if you’re not careful). Let your guests feast in comfort by providing plastic bibs to protect their shirts and ditch the linens or hand towels in lieu of more practical unscented wet wipes for cleaning crawfish-y hands.
  3. Set up a hand washing station.
    The wet wipes are a great start, but that crawfish juice can be prettyyyy…let’s say, potent. Stubbornly potent. Use a beverage dispenser (like one you’d find at Walmart), cut up some lemons (classic for getting strong smells out of skin), and even special crawfish soap if you can find it.
    Themed-décor and additional touches. Expert crawfish boil-throwers have come up with some pretty clever party décor from crawfish shaped banners to cupcake toppers and cake pops to red candy gift bags to string lights that remind guests of lightning bugs. The ideas are endless, and thanks to the wonders of sites like Pinterest, there is no shortage of them.  Adding some themed décor is a fun way to celebrate and adds those detailed touches that make guests ooh and ahh and declare you the queen (or king) of the boil.
    Bring the music. Is a party really a party without music? And if you’re from Louisiana you know that live music is the absolute best way to party. Of course, a traditional boil isn’t going to feature just any old music, you’re going to want to find musicians that can bring that culturally Cajun sound as well as ultra-lively New Orleans brass music. A brass band, in particular, is a great way to get people on their feet to celebrate (and burn off that 40 lbs of crawfish) with exuberance and dancing.You may even want to find a brass band that knows how to start a second-line parade. This can be pure Louisiana magic for your party, ensuring that all your guests (even the wall-iest of wallflowers) are on their feet to celebrate.
  4. Backyard games.
    For guests that prefer a little friendly competition while they wait for the crawfish to boil, set up various game stations around the yard (preferably away from seated guests who may not appreciate water or other objects being tossed near their head). Adults might like traditional yard games like corn hole and horseshoes. But if you’re feeling ambitious, there are plenty of creative ideas for keeping kids and kid-like adults entertained, including giant Jenga, yard bowling, a surprisingly wide variety of games that you can create with pool noodles.
  5. Make it a movie night.
    The fun doesn’t have to end once the sun goes down. Turn your backyard into a movie theater (complete with popcorn and sweet tea, of course) with a home projector and screen setup (or white sheet works just as well) and top the day’s events off with some relaxation.

Now you that you’ve had a glimpse of the history, the basics, and the extras of throwing a crawfish boil, it’s time to celebrate this fun and fascinating piece of Louisiana culture by hosting your own. Bon apetit!

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras has become synonymous with raucous partying that includes beads, masks, krewes, and parades (and of course, free flowing libations) and can be found lighting up New Orleans (and other fun-loving places) in early February or March. Mardi Gras is a French term that literally means Fat Tuesday, a time for eating rich fatty foods (sounds like a hella great time to us).

In other places like the UK, it is also known as Strove (or shrive) Tuesday which literally means “confess” (Bo, What a buzzkill). You may also hear of it referred to in Brazil and other Latin countries as Carnevale (yay, the party’s back!).

Mardi Gras has been called  “Greatest free party on Earth”.

Through Carnevale is sometimes printed or pronounced Carnival – a name that is associated with delightful, innocent fun– it is actually derived from the Latin “farewell to the flesh”, or the taking away of meat.

Mardi Gras actually has quite a fascinating and fun history. You might have wondered how it got started and eventually evolved into the celebrations we see around the world today. Well, the good news is—we know the answers to your Mardi Gras questions! Keep reading and we’ll fill you in on all the hot Mardi Gras gossip.

The Origins of Mardi Gras

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The origins of Mardi Gras​

Given it’s hard-partying ways, it might be hard to believe that Mardi Gras has religious roots. Though the last day of it is celebrated before the Roman Catholic period known as Lent and it is typically associated with those religious traditions, it’s celebrations are rooted in orgy and alcohol-fueled pagan spring fertility rites (Roman Lupercalia and Druid customs) that long pre-date Christianity.

Once Christianity became all the rage in Rome (around the 3rd or 4th century), Christendom blended pagan customs into their traditions so that pagan people would be more apt to accept it as the official religion.

Lent is a 40-day period of fasting and penance– hence the wildin’ out and hardcore fattening up of fat Tuesday, the day before the partying stops. It lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.

As a result, the excessive partying of Mardi Gras (pagan Lupercalia) came to be a prelude to the more austere Lent season (Roman Catholicism/Christianity). And once this new christianity spread its way around Europe, the Mardi Gras traditions went with it.

Mardi Gras goes to America

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How did Mardi Gras make its way to America and specifically New Orleans? As was mentioned, Mardi Gras bopped around Europe, making itself home mainly in Catholic countries like France. On March 3, 1699, two French explorers, Sieur de Bienville and Pierre Le Moyne d’ Iberville, made it all the way to the area we now call Louisiana, landing close to where New Orleans would be built. The day they landed, they celebrated finally getting off that cursed boat, kissed dry land (possible we made that part up) and named the spot Point du Mardi Gras. French settlers that followed over the decades also treated that day as a holiday and celebrated it with masked balls, street parties, and decadent meals. As long as Louisiana was under French rule, the good times kept rolling. In 1763, Spain took over the area and put a real crimp in the debauchery, banning Mardi Gras because they felt that things were getting too out of control. The ban remained in effect into the 1800s, until the French Creole population insisted that Mardi Gras was a must. It was reinstituted, Mardi Gras has been called the “greatest free party on earth”

Though Carnevale is sometimes printed or pronounced Carnival—a name that is associated with delightful, innocent fun– it is actually derived from the Latin “farewell to the flesh”, or the taking away of meat.

Lent is a 40-day period of fasting and penance—hence the wildin’ out and hardcore fattening up of Fat Tuesday,
the day before the partying stops. It lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. and everyone went buck-wild with it, causing a cap to be put on the fun so it didn’t become one year-
round party.

The Mardi Gras evolution

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Some sources say that many of the colorful traditions of Mardi Gras were started by a group of fun-loving college kids who came back from Paris and feeling inspired by what they had seen there, whooped it up. They danced through the streets of New Orleans wearing colorful masks and costumes. Well, who could resist an amazing outdoor costume dance party? Nobody in 19th century Louisiana could that’s for sure, and so others joined in the fun. In 1837, the first Mardi Gras parade marched down the streets of New Orleans and they haven’t stopped since.

Starting in the 19th century, Mardi Gras went from simple street parties to many of the elaborate affairs we see today. The men of an organization known as Comus were the ones that brought krewes (they called themselves Ye Mistick Krewe of Comus), themed parades, costumed masqueraders, and parade floats to the festivities.

Soon after other krewes formed. These sort of secret and pretty exclusive organizations put on Mardi Gras parades and elaborate balls. Members had to pay fees to join, sometimes thousands of dollars, but were given exclusive VIP access to Mardi Gras galas.

In 1871 the first bean cake (known as a King cake) was presented to a young, unmarried woman who was declared the Mardi Gras Queen, starting the royal traditions of the festivities.

The bean cake idea was actually derived from ancient tribal customs related to spring rites.

The party-innovators of 1872 wanted to flesh out the royal court a bit, so Mardi Gras Queens had a Rex, or King of the Carnival added to the fun. He wore the now traditional gold, green, and purple, and even had his own royal anthem “If I Ever Cease to Love”.

The King’s Ball  was held on Twelfth Night (the 12th night after Christmas, January 6th) and kicked off the ball-throwing season. Traditionally, a bean cake was cut during this party and the lucky winner had to throw the next ball.

Not long after, tossing beads and other trinkets from floats became popular. The crowds were all in. They grew in size, waiting for floats to pass by and yelling “Throw me something mister”, trying to score one of the coveted trinkets.

Mardi Gras in modern times

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The partying of Mardi Gras was so epic that not even some of the worst periods in history could kill its festive spirit. It survived through World War I, Prohibition, The Great Depression, and even World War II, coming out the other side not just unscathed, but bigger and wilder than ever. Here are some of the traditions that you’ll find in today’s Mardi Gras Celebrations.

  • Mardi Gras balls:
    After Christmas, it’s a gala ball every night. Spectacular affairs full of glittering and elaborate costumes (would you expect anything less?) are thrown by various krewes. Royal courts are chosen ahead of time and not revealed until the ball. Not content to just have a king or queen, everyone eventually wanted to get in on the royal action. Today, ladies-in-waiting, The bean cake idea was actually derived from ancient tribal customs related to spring rites. lieutenants, maids, and other “royalty” are chosen to make up a full royal court. In recent years, celebrities including Hollywood actors have been chosen for this regal honor.
  • King cakes:
    Not just for one lucky girl or future ball-hosters anymore, these days it is served to all unmarried women at Mardi Gras banquets. They may contain beans or baby figurines (which represents Christ as a child). It is also a popular custom for employers of office workers to bring a King cake to their employees. The winner (or loser?) has to buy a cake for the office the next day.
  • Tableaux:
    Dating back to medieval times, tableaux were show-like pageants put on where actors played out or wore customs to become living illustrations representing scenes from history and mythology. They were held on the day of a king or queen’s coronation and might be done in a parade-like fashion. All-night festivities followed. Today, similar tableaux are performed during Mardi Gras balls, and following medieval tradition, culminate in the coronation of the king and queen. After the royal court is presented, everyone dances and parties on til the break of dawn.
  • The Skull and Bone Gang:
    Going back to 1819, this gang had its roots in African spirituality. The tradition of the gang went on for some 200 years but took a brief hiatus. Now they’re back baby, and creepier than ever. If you are in the Treme neighborhood near the French Quarter and are brave enough to get up at 5am (or maybe you never even went to sleep), you might hear and see the gang coming through the neighborhood, knocking from door-to-door. Wearing skeleton customs (you can tell the chief of the gang by the antelope-eque antlers), they beat drums and dance through the streets chanting bone-chilling things like “If you don’t live right, the Bone Man is comin’ for ya”. *Shivers*
  • Mardi Gras Indians:
    Scattered throughout the city, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of costumed Mardi Gras Indians who especially appear on Super Sunday and at the jazz festival. There are about 3 dozen “tribes” that move throughout New Orleans neighborhoods dance battling, throwing shade, and song-fighting over whose chief is the “prettiest”. In all fairness, the chiefs go all out when it comes to their uber-elaborate beaded costumes that include brightly colored ostrich feathers, sequins, velvet, and rhinestones. The very definition of fabulous.
  • Parades:
    Is it really modern Mardi Gras if there aren’t parades full of float riders throwing out colorful beads, “doubloons”, moon pies, and other trinkets? Aside from the floats, colorfully dressed second line bands march throughout the city in all their pomp, blowing trumpets and other instruments, strutting, dancing, and letting anyone who can keep up join in. The bigger parades may not allow crowd participation, but find yourself a second line parade and you can join the festivities. You may also see flambeaux carriers creating their own spectacle, twirling and dancing their way along with parades at night.
  • All out partying and revelry:
    Yup. Though you probably don’t think of Mardi Gras without thinking New Orleans, they aren’t the only ones in the celebrating. Lafayette and Lake Charles, Louisiana hold 2-week long Mardi Gras festivals complete with parades, parties, and costumes. During that time, Lake Charles also does it up right with their World Famous Cajun Extravaganza and Gumbo Cook Off. Mardi Gras has been declared an official holiday in the state of Louisiana.

Mobile, Alabama

Brass Band Brassanimals What is Mardi gras

has claim to the oldest carnival celebrations 1703 with its own Carnival Museum that shares their history with Mardi Gras. Meanwhile, St. Louis says that they have the second biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the country, beat out only by New Orleans. Restaurants serve New Orleans style cuisine while the partying goes on with parades and balls. Orlando, Florida’s Universal Studies throws a mega-party that lasts 50 nights, complete with a parade each night and massive concerts. San Diego boasts the biggest Mardi Gras celebration on the West Coast complete with over-the-top floats and huge masquerade parades.

The Mardi Gras Celebrations Heard Round the World

Brass Band Brassanimals What is Mardi gras

  • United States
    – isn’t the only country that carries the Mardi Gras torch, many other countries hold festivities as well. Most famous is probably Rio De Janeiro’s wild Carnevale spectaculars that attract 2 million revelers to its annual blow-out. The revelry is so epic that it can be heard all the way across the Rio during peak party times.
  • Venice, Italy
    – has been in on the Carnevale action since the 12 th century, bringing 3 million revelers into the city each year. Locals wear traditional masks creatively made out of just about any material they can think of with masqueraders competing in front of judges for who wore it best.
  • French Quebec
    – carries on the tradition through their Winter Carnival, complete with fun arctic activities like icy canoe racing on the St. Lawrence River, gigantic snow sculptures, and the blasting of the red trumpet.
  • Copenhagen Denmark
    – is new to the Mardi Gras game, starting their tradition in 1982. They include traditional elements of Mardi Gras but also celebrate with one of the largest music festivals in the world. Various stages are set up throughout the city to hold the 120 bands that play and thousands of dancers that entertain the 100,000 + attendees.
  • Nice, France
    – is very nice that time of year, incorporating tradition flower parades covered in beautiful petals and paraders who wear matching colors. The parades often have elaborate and pretty unique themes, rolling on through the city day and night.
  • Canary Islands
    – love their Carnival Queen, holding a Grand Carnival Queen contest where all the young ladies wear humungous and completely spectacular customs and headdresses (some weighing more than 50 pounds!).
  • Trinidad and Tobago
    – throw highly energetic celebrations that not only include traditional brightly colored costumes but they also include exciting stick fights and fierce limbo competitions.

Well, when is Mardi Gras?

Brass Band Brassanimals What is Mardi gras

Since it’s always the Tuesday before Lent, the date varies. In 2019 it will be held on March 5 th . If you are planning for the future, 2020’s celebrations culminate on Tuesday, February 25, and in 2021 you’ll want to make plans for February 16 th . Mardi Gras is full of religious and historical significance and high-spirited revelry. Bright colors, grandiose costumes, dancing, parades, and all-out partying are the hallmarks of Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans and around the world. If you want to find out some of the best ways to celebrate, check out our blog to see how you can party with the best of em’.

The Ultimate Way to Celebrate Mardi Gras

A Southerners Guide to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. I know it as an exciting time of unrepentant energy, celebration, and alcohol. Especially the alcohol.

This holiday event is all about indulgence and jubilation, a time of excess, tasty food (beignets and jambalaya), and exotic drinks. Traditionally, this celebration is conducted before the ritual fasting of Lenten. The idea, then, is to get your eat on and drown yourself in every tasty beverage you can handle.

It’s a magical time, where everyone comes together so they can get sloppy drunk and wake up in places they don’t recognize.

If that sounds like your jam, well, good news. You’ve stumbled upon my guide for celebrating Mardi Gras the best way: your way. Sure, anyone can just waltz into a festive carnival and find themselves duking it out with a keg or three. But not you, right? You want to make the next Fat Tuesday is one to remember. Problem is, you don’t exactly know where to begin.

Well worry not connoisseur of the carnal delights. This quick-fix guide will grant you inspiration to indulge all those sordid ideas. Whether you plan on getting “I’m going to fight this shark” level drunk or just want to have fun with friends, I have you covered.

Getting Started – Plan Your Attack

The Ultimate Way to Celebrate Mardi Gras

While ‘planning’ doesn’t exactly sound like the high-octane, impulse driven celebration style you’d think with Mardi Gras, it’s still kind of important. The holiday offers something for everyone. What you want out of it is determined by what you plan to do.

Hard to catch that alcohol laced parade if you didn’t wake up in time, right? Or maybe you want a family-friendly escapade? Regardless, get some ideas together.

  • How many people do you expect to hang with?
  • What does everyone want to do?
  • What will this cost?
  • Where do you plan to go?
  • Staying in, going out, or half and half?
  • Alcohol?
  • Willing to travel?

Questions like those will keep some semblance of organization during a party day. Even a loose group of friends can get disentangled if they aren’t on the same page.

While we don’t expect you to crank out a bible of rules, it pays to prepare. Literally.

The Mardi Gras Parade

The Ultimate Way to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Once you get a solid feel for the “logistics” of your escapade, it’s on to the next big thing. No, not drinking (not yet at least). Fat Tuesday’s colorful parades are a big component of the holiday. In fact, regardless of how you plan to celebrate, we recommend catching one of these.

The vitality of crowds intermixed with amazing floats is something you don’t get to see often, so why not treat yourself? This is especially the case if you want something entertaining for everyone. Kids and adults alike can enjoy Mardi Gras parades, no matter where they plan to celebrate.

But hey, it’s one thing to want to go to one. It’s another to figure out where the best ones are. Again, we’ve got you covered.

So where are the parades? Well that’s the question: location. For the most part, the largest celebrations are conducted in New Orleans. In fact, it’s mostly here. While there are other Mardi Gras celebrations around the States, if you want elaborate parades, you go to New Orleans.

If you’re willing to travel, great! But guess what? It doesn’t stop there. There are multiple parades throughout Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. So which one to catch and where to go?

Again, it depends on what you want to see and how far you’re willing to go. Different parades occur at different times. If you’re not an early bird, chances are you and the gang want to catch events later in the evening. If the family has plans, earlier parades might help.

Still not sure? Here’s a quick resource to give you a better idea:

Mardi Gras 2019 Schedule

As you can see, there’s a whole mess of things to do and places to go. Choosing what works best for you and your schedule assures there are no slip-ups on the big day (or days, if you’re partying hard).

The Partying

The Ultimate Way to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Not in New Orleans? No problem. It’s great for the spectacle of catching colorful floats, but if you just want to find celebrations in general, you’re not restricted to New Orleans. If you want to get out and experience bead tossing, alcohol-induced fun, there are likely celebrations held in your area or near a major city.

Look, this is an excuse to eat like crazy, get stupid drunk, and hang out. At the beginning of the week, no less. If there’s a party to be had, you will find one.

But maybe that’s not your style – maybe you want to handle the party itself. Good call. Or, potentially bad call, depending on how you prepare. If you don’t do the latter, you might have a bad time. It’s all about expectations, guests, and what you want out of the big day.

If you’re planning a quaint get together with family and friends, wearing a few celebration-appropriate things topped off with a nice drink, no problem. But if you want to get dizzy in feasts and alcohol, you have to invite the right people for the right time.

So, let’s take a two-pronged approach. We’ll cover some ideas, recipes and things to do for a nice get together or a crazy night of fun.

At Home

If you’re thinking of staying at home or celebrating in a smaller way, you can still live it up without losing your mind at a friend’s party or colorful parade.

The first big thing to do then is to get your big eat on. It’s not called Fat Tuesday just for fun! Since the traditional roots of the holiday were about eating a lot and then conducting a fast, this was an opportunity to “live it up” before controlling what one ate afterward.

For this, you’re free to chow on any dishes that come to mind but consider dishes in the spirit of the big day.

May we suggest:

You can also slap together jambalaya, fried shrimp, seafood/crawfish boils, and anything else you can think of. These recipes aren’t mandatory – but if you want that authentic Mardi Gras taste, they’re certainly some of the more popular dishes.

Now that you’ve got some ideas for food – what about décor? Well, all depends on whose showing up. But let’s assume there’s a desire for festive costumes. Mardi Gras isn’t just focused on eat and drink, there’s a costumed element too.

How you want to proceed is up to you, but typical décor include masks, colorful beads, feathers, and whatever else comes to mind. If you want to feel creative and include family members (like younger kids), you can make some of these yourself. It’s a good way to get others involved and add your own personal touch to the celebration.

As a side note, if you plan to make your own stuff, we don’t recommend glitter – that’s a nightmare of a mess.

You’re free to extend this colorful array to your home as well; nothing says celebration like a canvas of different lights and mysterious attires. If you do this, we also recommend using the three primary colors associated with Mardi Gras: purple, yellow, and green. Purple for faith, yellow (or gold) for power, and green for justice.

There are plenty of other touch ups you can do for your home, but that all depends on how far you want to go. We assume that by taking the home “Netflix and chill” approach you’re just looking to hang out with friends and family. But, these touches will provide a pleasant atmosphere while you enjoy Fat Tuesday.

Oh, but we haven’t forgotten the best part. Alcohol. Since you’re at home, you probably aren’t planning to get too drunk. Or maybe you are? Whatever the case, we can also suggest drinks to make at home for the big day. Sure, you can skip that process and just buy a twelve of your favorite brand, but if you’re going to the trouble to decorate and invite, you may as well try some authentic alcohol too.

It shouldn’t surprise you Mardi Gras drinks are mixers and cocktails. Cheap beer isn’t usually found on the menu – unless you’re hanging out for the night or visiting a bar – so the idea is to douse all the delicious food with tasty drinks.

What kind? There are plenty to choose from, but for your convenience, we’ll include a recipe list.

Partying Out

Home isn’t for everyone on Mardi Gras. Maybe you’ve got a schedule to attend some big parades or you’re ready to experience the night life.

We’ve already gone over the parades, and there are plenty to choose from if you happen to be in New Orleans. But if you’re visiting and more interested in the drinking aspect, there are plenty of great taverns and bars to visit too.

Even better, some bars serve some food with your drink, so you can really get a taste for Fat Tuesday.

But hey, whatever the plan is, just remember a few things for your big night out:

  • You might need a designated driver, depending on where you are
  • Not everyone is looking to get the same level of drunk so make sure you know what’s what
  • You might want to set a spending limit – that bill adds up fast

For your convenience, here’s a link with some recommendations to Mardi Gras specialty bars. And hey! It even includes a bunch of extra useful info for celebrating the big one.

The Countdown

The Ultimate Way to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Now, the only thing left to do is countdown the days until Mardi Gras. With this quick guide, you’ll find a dozen different ways to party up, and celebrate Mardi Gras the best possible way. Just try to stay conscious so you don’t forget the crazy night!

DJ versus Live Band

DJ versus Live Band

Oh, the eternal party planning struggle—do you go with conventional DJ or do you take a gamble on a live band. A DJ may seem like the safe route to go when it comes to choosing a musical host for your event, after all, aren’t there more variables and chances for a total music fail when choosing a live band?

Choosing to have a live band play at your event may not be as nerve-wracking as you think (or DJs would want you to believe) and in fact, there are distinct advantages. Of course, every decision has its pros and cons, and the same is true in the old DJ versus live band debate, but let’s discuss why having a live band play at your event can be such a party-changer.

A live band can bring the right vibe

What kind of vibe do you want your party to have? Music is pretty important for setting the tone for your event. You might have a specific theme going (Mardi Gras, holiday party, wedding, etc.), certain genres that you and your guests love to sing and dance to, you might want a style of music that reminds you of certain times in your life (like bringing you back to your high school or college years), or you might want a mellow or even romantic tone set by your music selection.

DJs and live bands will bring different vibes to the table (or dance floor). Ask yourself: “Which one will be able to capture the spirit of what I’m going for?” “Do they have enough music in the genre I want to hear to play or spin for several hours (or however long you want)?” These are just a couple of factors to consider, but there is so much more.

Live music is more dynamic

Vibe and atmosphere aren’t only about the playlist. Style of music, song selection, noise level, etc. are important factors, but the way the music is played also has a big effect on the mood.  

The difference between a live band and a DJ is the difference between listening to a song on the radio and listening to it at the front row of a concert. We don’t care who you are, it’s hard not to be excited by a live performance. Even the most hard-and-fast wallflowers will find themselves tapping their feet or humming along to the music of a live band. Older ones who can’t get on the dance floor will also appreciate a live performance to keep them entertained if they can’t cut that proverbial rug anymore.

For those who do like to party on the dance floor, the feeling of a live band can be electrifying. When a band is close to the dance floor, people can feel the energy. While you can often feel the energy from the bass of a DJ’s speakers as well, it’s missing that human element—one of the things that makes a live band so outstanding.

That human element along with live instruments makes for a dynamic presence in the venue. Live music gets a crowd excited because it is soul-stirring, emotional, dramatic, and motivational. Do you remember the last time a DJ made you and your guests feel that way?

Each band has a unique personality, a composite of all the characters within it. Don’t discount the entertainment value of a trumpet player who is totally rocking his solo like no one is watching.

A more interactive experience

Part of what makes the human element so important when it comes to a memorable music presence is that people can be interactive. A DJ speaks from his booth and may even call out to the crowd to sing or shout various phrases and guests love doing it. It makes people feel that they are an integral part of the party.

On the other hand, DJs usually aren’t any more interactive than that—they are somewhat limited. A good band leader, however, not only knows how to emcee, he knows how to interact with guests. Unlike a digital music player, he knows how to connect to the people around him and keep guest engaged.

More than that, a live band can be mobile, adding a fun, special element to the event. DJ is separated from guests behind his equipment which can create a small barrier physically and mentally for the crowd. A band can get up to walk and play among guests, making them part of the experience.

Creativity and Flexibility Factors

DJs have a pretty vast and eclectic repertoire of music,  but they can only play whatever music they can buy or download. They lack a certain amount of flexibility and spontaneity in a performance that only real live humans are capable of.

Many might make the argument that a live band is limited in the music they can play. But those who make that argument probably never heard an amazing, very professional live band play (much different from the garage band playing Springsteen covers at the local bar)(not that there’s anything wrong with Springsteen, we love The Boss as much as anyone else).

Some people want to hear the songs they love exactly as they were recorded and that’s great! A DJ is perfect for that—giving people the sounds of their favorite artists as they were meant to be. Many DJs can even create exciting mixes, letting their creativity shine in that way.

If you want to hear creative musical twists on new and old favorites or expertly mixed genres and styles (think Beyoncé songs played by a brass band), a live band is the way to go. Many musicians love to get creative with their compositions and give guests sounds that are unique and may not be heard anywhere else.

Live musicians also have to ability to improvise and bring spontaneity to the set (for example, the rockin’ solos previously mentioned). Their ability to read a crowd makes them adaptable to the personality of the party. This usually makes them better at transitioning from one song to the next and keeping everyone engaged. Ever heard a DJ who starts one awesome song after another, getting you in the groove only to switch each one out 30 seconds into it, completely wrecking the flow? Yup, good transitioning is important.

Upscale or professional affairs with low key musical needs

What if you are having an event that requires a mellower sound? Some might fear that a live band will be too loud, too in-your-face, or can’t bring a sound that is appropriate to the event. Is that always the case? Are live bands not an appropriate musical choice for quieter affairs?

Professional musicians know how to balance sound. DJs seem to only have one volume and it can be nearly impossible to carry on a conversation above it (why is the whole office hoarse the next day? Maybe it was the 4 hours of screaming about their last vacations or their kid’s accomplishments to each other?) A live band filled with professional musicians will be better able to tailor the volume, tempo, and tone of the music to suit the needs of the host. They can provide light background music—often with vocals or just instrumental to keep the level sound just right for dinner or conversation.

Addressing other concerns about live bands

The argument could be made that a DJ usually takes up less real estate in a venue. While it’s true that a huge, 20-piece ensemble might not be practical for a party in your basement or sorority house living room, a venue that has space for a DJ has that same amount of space for a band. A DJ still needs room for his equipment and speakers (something a live band doesn’t need) which means they take up a bit of area.

Sometimes with a DJ, electrical outlets can be an issue. There may be space in a venue for a DJ to set up, but no place to conveniently plug in their equipment. A live band is man (or woman) powered—they don’t need outlets, they bring the electricity to a room.

Another concern that many event-throwers face is budget. DJs can cost less, which is very appealing if you’re working with limited funds. However, DJs don’t always cost less, and often they are still quite an expense. It’s good to do a price comparison and check out any specials a live band might offer (are they cheaper on certain days or at certain times of the year?).

Worried about musical variety or potential lack-thereof with a live band? DJs do usually have a large selection of songs in their bag of tricks—they wouldn’t be a very good DJ otherwise. Likewise, a professional live band wouldn’t be very good if it didn’t have a wide range of songs to play either.

If you hire a genre-specific band like a salsa or polka band, chances are you won’t see much variety in the musical selection, but many professional bands like to mix things up. Like a DJ, their job is music, so the best bands are going to be constantly adding songs to their repertoire to give clients a great, variety-filled performance.

The verdict?

A DJ with plenty of personality can get a crowd going, that much is true. But you have just as much risk of getting a DJ who will leave your guests snoring and your dance floor boring. Or maybe even worse, obnoxious and cheesy. And then you have the rage-inducing request-takers who hijack your party by playing everyone else’s tunes, (For goodness sake, who is requesting the Electric Slide for the 9 millionth time?) even when they are on your firm Do Not Play list. All are prime ingredients in a party-killing cocktail.

No one wants to spend precious time and hard-earned money on an event that most people will hardly remember or is indistinguishable from any other party or event they’ve ever been to. A live band will give your event or party that “wow” factor, and can even add a touch of class if that’s what you are going for. Live music will give your guests something they can talk about.

What Is A Second Line Parade?

Often seeming to appear out of nowhere and full of vibrant energy, second line parades have been likened to a raucous, moving block party. With roots that span centuries, you’ll find these festive marches that had their birth in New Orleans to be wonderfully spirited processions that are quite the sight to behold (and even more amazing to join).


What exactly makes up a second line parade? Who marches in one? How did they begin and where can you find them today? You’ll find the answers to these questions and other interesting facts when you keep reading below.

What exactly is a second line parade?


Though different aspects of the second line parade may vary slightly or be given unique touches by the creative characters who form it, you’ll always find certain tried and true components in a second line parade.


To begin with, a second line parade would be nothing without a brass band to take the musical lead. You’ll find trumpets or tubas acting as heralds to announce the approach of the procession. Two different kinds of drummers establish the rhythm. The first is usually drumming out a typical marching brass band beat and the other, the snare drummer, adds a more creative element, often improvising patterns and beats on the fly and according to their own unique style.

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ZURICH – AUGUST 1: Swiss National Day parade on August 1, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. Parade opening with Zurich city orchestra


The music played by the band is in itself a beautiful fusion of traditions and culture. Amidst the inherently jazzy sound, you can hear glimpses of sound that mix standard marching music, African American gospel, and Caribbean rhythms, along with spiritual and secular black slave dances.

The revelers who make up the second line add their own flavor to the parade. They add beats by clapping their hands, bottles, sticks, or anything else they can make into an improvised instrument. This mix of beats and personal stylings lend a one-of-a-kind sound to each parade, making them all distinctive in their own right.


 The term “second line” originally referred to those that joined in behind the band, but it has since evolved to really encapsulate the whole event. Though traditionally second line parades honor a specific person, as time passed, the fun could no longer be contained to only specific events, like weddings, corporate events, festivals, and holidays. Many will find that nowadays, a second line parade is not for a particular purpose or tied to an event, but often they are held just for the sheer joy of it.


Who makes up a second line parade?


If there is a second line to the parade, it makes sense that there has to be a first line, doesn’t it? Traditionally, the parade was hosted by a neighborhood organization or social club and usually comprised of multiple generations of family members, friends, and neighbors. These hosts would be in the first line along with the band and headed up by the honoree(s) (such as a bride and groom).

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The second line is comprised of pretty much anyone else sporting enough to join the festivities. Second lines are very inclusive and welcome any and all who can’t resist joining in and can keep up with the intense energy.  These ones march, dance, and strut in step with the music but behind the honorees, band, and hosts in the first line. Second liners are far from being an unimportant element to the parade as their enthusiastic movements add to the liveliness and fun of the event.

History of the second line parade

Though they are more direct descendants of New Orleans famous jazz funerals (minus the casket and mourners), second line parades have a much longer heritage, incorporating traditions that go back several centuries. In fact, a number of scholars have traced elements of second line parades back to the traditions of West African tribes and Caribbean festival culture. More than just having a good time, these parades are part of a long-standing heritage that has been carried on through the music and dancing of second lines.


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Barranquilla , Colombia – February 25, 2017 : people participating at the parade of the carnival festival of Barranquilla Atlantico Colombia


In the area where second line parades began, slaves were given more personal freedoms than in other areas. In fact, they often had the weekends off in order to leave the plantation and gather with others. In New Orleans, these gatherings usually took place at Congo Square.

More than just hanging out and socializing, slaves often brought instruments such as drums, banjos, violins, and other instruments. They would play traditional African music while others would perform cultural dances, often with a spiritual undertone.

From this, they were able to build a kind of community that would help preserve their native heritage. In time, support groups were formed (referred to as societies or clubs). One element that all these societies had in common was performing processionals that became the framework of second line parades.


Second line parades emerged close to the same time that brass bands made it to the states—generally somewhere in the earlier to mid-19th century. Brass bands would create a procession (often for a funeral) as they played music through the streets. The African American societies began to adapt their traditional processionals to blend in the music of the European brass bands that had become so popular during the time.

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Young African American males began following these processions, adding in their own elements or dramatically mimicking the first line. Danny Barker, an early 20th-century jazz musician, said that these boys were so ‘delighted by the music that they would gather to dance and strut in tempo and emulate the motions of the musicians and Grand Marshal’. In this way, the second line parade became a way for young African Americans to socialize and express their culture.

Musician and jazz historian Dr. Michael White said of the earlier second line parades that “the social and spiritual dimensions of the jazz culture became especially evident in processions – parades by benevolent societies (also called ‘social and pleasure clubs’), church parades, and jazz funerals – where large segments of the community would gather in an almost religious- like ‘celebration’ to commemorate special events and occasions (or just to gather in revelry ‘for no reason at all’).”


As joyous second liners added a more celebratory feel to the processions, they gradually began to move away from a more formal style into one that took on a feel of jubilant fun.

Second Line Parades and Wedding Traditions


Weddings are festive and celebratory, and brides and grooms often choose to express their joy in the form of second line parades held after ceremonies, during receptions, or at the end of the night to help bring a fantastic party to a spectacular close.

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The bride and groom are honorees in this case, so they lead the first line along with the brass band. Traditionally they may hold a decorative parasol or umbrella, easily followed as they front the march. Second liners join by forming a line behind the couple, dancing and strutting to the music while waving handkerchiefs or napkins.

Some couples go the extra mile by making personalized handkerchiefs as party favors, used by guests to wave during the procession. Some personalize highly-decorative parasols and canes for the wedding party to use in the march, and others hand out beads and other like favors to help foster the revelry.


For added flair, a newly married couple might hire Mardi Gras Indians to march in their parade. These wear colorful, elaborate costumes and headdresses, turning the second line parade into a living work of art and culture. It also helps in creating some stunning wedding day photos for the bride and groom.


Then there are couples who decide to take their celebration to the streets. It is not uncommon to find a second line wedding parade dancing their way through the streets of New Orleans. Police on motorcycles clear a path on the parade route, blaring their sirens in announcement of the honorees. Tourists and natives—pretty much anyone along the route—are welcome to join in the celebratory march which usually lasts from 5-8 blocks (about 20-30 minutes).

Although the second line wedding parade is seen as a New Orleans tradition, the fun has spread out beyond the boundaries of the city so that second line parades can be enjoyed during wedding festivities in just about any part of the country.


Second Line Parades and Funeral

While we’ve discussed how the second line parade is such a joyful event, it might seem odd to incorporate such a festive event into a funeral. However, the concept of a funeral procession is not new by any means. In fact, it has been a long-standing aspect of burial traditions in many cultures, including the West African cultures that so heavily influenced the characteristics of the second line parades (though it mixes in European and Anglo-American burial traditions as well).

Many view it as a ‘celebration of life at the moment of death’. Traditionally, funeral processions were held for prominent black male members of a community, often times a musician (who was appropriately “buried with music”). Following the adage “solemn music on the way to the grave and happy music on return”, the parade would make its way to the grave with the more typical sounds that would be found in a funeral—those of mourning and grieving.


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However, after the body was laid to rest at the grave (or symbolically “cut loose”), the band would begin to play up-tempo music as a celebration of life. As the musical procession left the cemetery, second-liners would join behind and begin to dance to the more festive music, turning the funeral into a street celebration.

The spread and musical evolution of second line parades

With its brass band sounds being so closely tied to jazz and other musical genres that evolved from it (like funk and rock and roll), it is no surprise that there would be a widespread influence. Jazz legend Louie Armstrong and the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown are among the many who have spread the music inherent in second line parades to people around the world. In fact, it’s a fundamental aspect of many international jazz styles today, not to mention the influence it has had on other musical genres.


The 20th century saw a great evolution in its musical landscape, and the second line has adapted accordingly. Its music has seamlessly absorbed the musical genres of the day—be it swing, jump blues, rhythm & blues, or rock and roll—and made it its own. Second line musicians have added their creative twists by mixing genres and boldly experimenting with new styles created from the traditional ones.


Brass Animals Brass Band What Is A Second Line Parade 10
Musicians select their instruments in the air


In recent years, second lines still have a hold on hearts and minds and have been used to express triumph. One example of this was after the catastrophic devastation left by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans rallied in the way they knew best. A mock jazz funeral was organized, complete with a second line, to symbolize the “death” of the hurricane. It was also a call to all who left the city to return to the rich heritage of their home.

Even though second line parades are closely linked to New Orleans and its rather unique traditions, the fun and festive atmosphere that it fosters have universal appeal. People everywhere want to experience the joy and celebration, and second line parades give the freedom to experience it all.

Top 5 Cities to Visit During Mardi Gras (Besides New Orleans)

Mardi Gras (Besides New Orleans)

Mardi Gras is a magnificent celebration of Carnival that most famously takes place in New Orleans each year. While no one can beat the New Orleans festival, it is not the only city that knows how to throw a Fat Tuesday celebration in a spectacular fashion. Here are five other cities that you should be sure to visit for an incredible Mardi Gras experience.

Mobile, Alabama

While New Orleans is known as the ultimate Mardi Gras destination, Mobile is widely recognized as the birthplace of the festival. The city of Mobile puts on authentic parades over the course of two weeks surrounding Fat Tuesday, which allows you plenty of opportunities to observe the tradition. Members of different societies ride on the floats and throw small gifts that are enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

St. Louis, Missouri

According to Budget, “Winters are chilly in St. Louis, but early spring brings the festivities of the largest Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans.” St. Louis knows how to party; with over a month of activities, the celebration is nonstop for weeks. A pet parade, Weiner dog derby, and a Family Winter Carnival are just some of the dozens of activities and events that make St. Louis a city you must visit for Mardi Gras.

San Diego, California

Despite the fact that the city lacks French heritage, San Diego celebrates Mardi Gras as though they do. Unlike some of the other cities on the list that host events over several weeks, San Diego plans all parades and events for Fat Tuesday only. The Gaslight District is the place to be in order to see fire eaters, stilt walkers, and of course traditional parades.

Galveston Island, Texas

This city has the largest Mardi Gras celebration in the state of Texas. Galveston Island hosts many events for the whole family to enjoy. According to Having Fun in the Texas Sun, “It’s really a very family-friendly event, with TONS of fun during the almost non-stop parades and celebrations the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday!” In addition to performances by major musical acts, there are many events, including a special show involving dancers with umbrellas.

Biloxi, Mississippi

Biloxi is the center of an enormous Fat Tuesday celebration along the Mississippi coast. Overall, the city hosts 24 parades and parties, offering something for everyone. Indulge in a slice of King Cake and visit the Mardi Gras Museum to round out your visit.

While it is impossible to beat a New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration, many cities offer very exciting and family friendly Fat Tuesday events. Visit any of these cities for a unique and authentic Mardi Gras experience.

If you are planning on having your own Mardi Gras celebration, wherever you are at, check to see if our band plays in your town. We’re sure to set the right mood for any Fat Tuesday celebration.