We must admit that we missed the 2009 Grand Parade of the Soulard Mardi Gras on Saturday, February 21. The temps were freezing and a wicked wind pushed the wind chill into the 20's.
Missing the 2009 version of the parade might be perceived as a tragedy, since it is promoted as the crown jewel of the Soulard Mardi Gras and as an extremely sophisticated parade, second only to the public displays associated with a royal coronation. To be honest, those officers and members of Mardi Gras, Inc., and the Soulard Restoration Group carry themselves as though they are royalty. We know that the rest of the world wishes they were one with this in-crowd, with The Swells of Soulard. But you aren’t, so eat your heart out.
In fact, Madame Chouteau missed the parade not because of the weather but because the parade is so pathetic.
Here are some pictures from the 2008 parade. You could park your rosin chair next to the pumps at any truck stop in Pevely or Fenton and see a better parade of trucks, and without the drunken crowds. Bring your own beads and have a ball. And the booze would be cheaper, so you could get a good buzz on and have money left over to buy a six-pack or two to drink on your drive home.
It should be mentioned that the photos were taken at the beginning of the parade and do not advantageously display the parade setting: a stretch of road whimsically and romantically titled South Broadway, a post-industrial urban boulevard, complete with potholes and eroding curbs, embroidered with a surly spectrum of gas stations, worn at the edges fast food outlets, liquor stores, vacant buildings and trash strewn lots. To hear The Swells of Soulard talk, Mardi Gras turns South Broadway into some kind of Rodeo Drive. The Grand Parade does lend a certain flavor to South Broadway. The old computer saw about garbage in, garbage out comes to mind.
Thus, it is puzzling to witness the hubbub made over the Grand Parade and Grand Parade Day.
For example, why would Loonyness Place, the newest gambling venue here in St. Louis and a source of great civic pride to people starved for signs of municipal health, associate itself with this debacle by sponsoring it? Why would a supposed sophisticated business want to stand cheek by jowl with Mardi Gras Inc. and its child, the Grand Parade, a lame come-on for a faux festival trying mightily to disguise the fact that selling over-priced booze (and as much as possible to anybody) is its reason for existence?
Is this a cool branding move? Madame Chouteau has found that one way to determine whether somebody has a semblance of good sense and effectively evaluates reality is to bring up the subject of the Grand Parade Day. Those with a life say they wouldn’t get anywhere near the event. They accurately appraise it as "just a bunch of drunks."
So here is Your Sponsorship, LP, the entertainment venue whose unique contribution to St. Louis is a tunnel from the underutilized domed football stadium (which soon will be really underutilized) to their new digs in Laclede’s Landing. A tunnel from nowhere to nothing. Why does it associate with MG Inc? Maybe it helps management feel superior. Scientists aren’t sure.
In a city insecure about its identity and direction and hosting a leadership trumpeting self-serving answers and solutions, the Soulard Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day is a symptom of the continuing malaise confronting Soulard and St. Louis. Is a Grand Drunk - enthusiastically boosted as an answer by those who know better - the preview of things to come?