Bushy babes & bohemian parades

A photo essay from that time I was in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. Say what?!


Boozy crowds strain for a view underneath centuries old wrought iron balconies. Before French Quarter facades, hands and cameras alike outstretch to cheer a drag queen fairy riding in a bottle of absinthe, Marie Antoinette lookalikes in luminescent ballroom gowns and wigs, a purple-bearded lady on stilts.

I’ve watched such flora and fauna parade the streets of New Orleans throughout Mardi Gras season… but this time I’m parading with them, not watching from the side.

Getting ready for Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Get inspired by this photo essay from the time I joined in on a Mardi Gras parade unexpectedly despite being a tourist.

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Krewe of who?

How did I end up here, in a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade?

Like all strange travel experiences, it began with a “yes.”

>> Do you want to march in a Mardi Gras parade?

The text from a friend was an unexpected distraction during a coffee shop work session. What? Cool! Yes! Wait, how?

Instructions trickled in. I had to pay dues to join the “Krewe of Full Bush.” And register under the “Krewe Boheme” by the next day. Costumes were necessary. Krewe members had to work together to build a parade float. And make personalized throws.

This being my first Mardi Gras, I had no clue what half of that meant. Krewes? Dues? Costumes? I had no costume clothes in my traveler bag! And what the heck were throws?

Nevertheless, I signed up and paid my dues. Do first, question later.

Lots of flair and pubic hair 

Things fell into place, as the seemingly impossible always does.

“Krewes” turned out to be themed Mardi Gras parade groups. There are hundreds of krewes in New Orleans, some older than others. Krewe of Full Bush’s theme turned out to be untrimmed body hair. Krewe Boheme was the overarching group of 20-ish krewes we’d march in the parade with, all loosely falling under a bohemian theme.

Second-hand shop in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana

Explanations for the costume theme—classic circus plus HAIR—eventually appeared in my inbox. Secondhand stores, fabulous fabric shops, and ever-trusty Amazon saved me in my moment of wardrobe need.

A drizzly Sunday was my chance to meet the bushy members of my hair-positive krewe. In a backyard lot on the outskirts of New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, fluffy chickens and curious dogs pecked at crafting supplies while we snipped wigs, painted canvases, and stapled our circus float together.

Putting together a red and white striped circus tent for a Mardi Gras parade float - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Figuring out how to craft a circus tent from bedsheets for the parade float

Dog in a wig in New Orleans, LA

Dogs can wear wigs, too

Putting dismantled wigs onto a Mardi Gras parade float in New Orleans

“Can you make fire with these wigs?” Challenge accepted! Erm, sort of.

Painting a plaster lioness for a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, LA

A sassy lioness in the works

Chicken walking through craft supplies in New Orleans

Middle school Home Economics class proved useful for the first time as I battled a friend’s sewing machine hoping to craft a sturdier costume. Necessity mandated a last minute follow up costuming session, sewing machine abandoned in favor of aggressive fabric glue use. Probably should’ve paid more attention in Home Ec.

Bohemian rhapsody

Before I knew it, parade time was upon us.

Girl pulling a parade float during Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Float ready as it’ll ever be

Paraders in circus costumes with a float during Mardi Gras in New Orleans

The circus starts to assemble

Purple bearded lady on stilts in a Mardi Gras parade

Twilight falls as we load up a shopping cart with snacks that will never be eaten and a massive cooler of tequila that will be sucked dry in less than an hour. Fake eyelashes and glitter makeup get their final touches in bars and under streetlights.

Filling a shopping cart with snacks and alcohol for a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans

Krewe of Full Bush lining up for the 2019 Krewe Boheme Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, LA

Krewe of Full Bush gathering

Gluing fake eyelashes onto a girl for a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans

No time like the last minute

Girls drinking on the pool table at Mimi's in the Marigny in New Orleans

A psychedelic menagerie of LED lights, looming floats, and shimmering bodies forms a line. Sounds range from live brass bands to thudding bass depending on where I stand. Vessels dangle from paraders’ hands as livers strain. Bags of powders surreptitiously pass between sniffling marchers.

Girl dressed as a light up lion in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans

Lioness, reimagined

Woman in alien costume in the Krewe Boheme Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans

Aliens ahoy!

Brass band playing in a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade

There’s always a band playing somewhere in New Orleans

People pushing a Mardi Gras decoration in the Krewe Boheme parade

Woman in light up skirt drinking on the streets of New Orleans

Armed & ready

Girl riding a unicycle in New Orleans

My ballsy friend Amelia working it on her unicycle

Man cycling a pirate ship Mardi Gras float

Merry Antoinettes taking a selfie at the Krewe Boheme parade in New Orleans

One bossy selfie

I begin the parade dancing and prancing on foot…

Boy riding a unicycle in the Krewe Boheme Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans

Taking turns on Amelia’s unicycle

Girl cycling Krewe of Full Bush parade float in the Krewe Boheme Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans

… but eventually fall back to check on the heavy and lumbering float. Seeing its slow progress, I offer to take a turn driving it.

Perched atop the precariously unbalanced bicycle, I pedal the hairy cart. A breasted lion/ess wearing black platform boots and a bush of pubic hair guards my back. Boys in construction uniforms play instruments in front of me; I try to dance, drink, and pedal simultaneously with varying levels of success. When my dancing becomes too eager the bike sways and the crowd leaps back. Luckily, everyone is in high spirits and (mostly) amused.

Cycling a Mardi Gras float through the French Quarter, New Orleans

Lioness parade float from Krewe of Full Bush in New Orleans Mardi Gras parade 2019

Krewe Boheme parade moving through the French Quarter in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, LA

View from the bike

Filled French Quarter avenues suddenly give way into standard city streets: the end of the parade route is here. Krewes disband, staggering off to after parties in full regalia. Floats stick out in traffic like sore thumbs as riders cycle them to final resting places. The juxtaposition of real and imagined is an appropriately bizarre ending to this parade experience.

End of the Mardi Gras parade line in New Orleans

The end

People in costume ordering street food in New Orleans, LA

Paraders and floats exiting the parade next to a New Orleans street car

Absinthe bottle, rolling out

People in Mardi Gras parade costumes walking on the streets of New Orleans after the Krewe Boheme parade

Real, surreal

Catcallers eye my costumed body as I dissolve into the streets of nighttime New Orleans, but I ignore them and carry on. Despite not living here, I just paraded along the city’s most iconic streets during my first ever Mardi Gras. I still don’t quite know how, but I do know they can’t pull me down from cloud nine tonight.

Alex in a classic clown Mardi Gras costume in New Orleans, LA


Want more unexpected adventures? How about that time I was accosted by shepherds in Afghanistan?

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Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

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