Uptown - Magazine Street. Awesome fountain.

More scenes along the parade route. Note the fences to keep people off the landscaping, and the ladders converted to private viewing stands!

St Charles street car line

Buildings along St Charles all decked out for Mardi Gras

Jeff as part if a IFA conference panel

Another evening of parades … And a glimpse of the aftermath. It’s an assault to all if your senses, but an experience I’d recommend (once)!

Knights of Sparta queuing up for their afternoon parade

St Charles Ave parade route. This was 9am and already people were arriving with their Bud Light for the 1pm parade.

Louis Armstrong Park

Scenes from my Sat AM run

Mardi Gras

I always thought Mardi Gras was just the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Now I understand that in NOLA, it must start right after Christmas!

We learned there are several parades on weekend days - 12 today in fact! Each parade is put on by a “Krewe,” which used to be secret societies, but now are general social clubs.

Friday night we stood for about an hour waiting for the 6pm Krewe of Oshan parade, but by 7:30p we had enough waiting and people watching and gave up to find dinner instead.

The stands that are erected along the parade route are amazing. You can reserve seats, or reserve a whole section or box. Some were decked out quite elaborately and had roaring parties going on.

A word about the NOLA police - they seemed to be out in full force, serving the parade route in cars, SUVs and on horseback. Many standing in groups smack talking with foul language. All we saw, men and women were extremely obese. Apparently the standards to be part of the NOLA police force are not very high?! Jeff pointed out that a bad guy was easily going to outrun anyone that we saw!

So I tried to capture some if the parade sights on some photos … But they hardly do it justice. While out on my run this am, I had the good fortune of stumbling upon the Knights of Sparta as they were staging for their 1pm parade today! I got a chance to see the floats up close and personal and watched them load the floats with sandwiches, beer, beads and other trinkets to be tossed as is the tradition here “throw me something, Mister” or so it goes.

Friday night waiting for the parade …

I know posting food shots is so passé, but I couldn’t resist. This was last nights dinner at Kingfish. On the left is the kingfish - baked on a Himalayan salt brick - over lemon and collard greens. On the right, flounder with cajun spices baked on a board. Didn’t take a photo of our monster crab cake appetizer! Yum. Our friends Tim and Sheri joined us as we were having dessert and they ordered the same yummy dishes!

Franchising Gives Back

For the past three years, the day before the IFA (International Franchise Association) convention, a group of IFA members have been volunteering on a local community project. Previous projects have been with a low income senior housing center in Orlando, an HIV support mission in Las Vegas, and this year we partnered with Hands On New Orleans to do some outside work at a charter school in New Orleans.

Hands On New Orleans is nonprofit volunteer action center, founded after Hurricane Katrina, which coordinates service work for the community. They brought 8 talented young leaders that had the skill and finesse to herd our group of 125 business leaders and entrepreneurs. No easy task!

We loaded onto three luxury buses and drove about 10 miles to East NO - past Lake Pontchartrain and the new levy system. It gave us a great appreciation for the flatness of the area. We could see how people were stranded on their rooftops, or forced to evacuate to highway ramps. About half the houses had been renovated - many are not, and it was hard to tell if those were occupied, but they hadn’t been demolished so I’m guessing they are.

We arrived at Einstein Charter school, and were ushered into the cafeteria, where a teacher and three students greeted us. Most of the schools in NO are charter schools, operating independently by private non-profit groups. Einstein was started in 2006, and is proud to have achieved recognition from the state of Louisiana for its academic achievements. In 2013, they took over a second failed elementary school. They are pre-K through eighth grade.

The teacher told us about the high standards for their kids, and also of the family commitment to keeping their kids in school. They have a multicultural environment, and three different languages are spoken there (English, Spanish and Mandrin). Area high schools compete to attract Einstein kids and they have very active music and arts programs.

Hearing the teacher, and later the principal talk, made me feel hopeful for these kids. 97% of these families live below the poverty line. Many lost everything in the hurricanes, and the loss of tourism meant loss of jobs for many. The BP oil spill further devastated these communities when the commercial fishing industry took a hit. Yet, as they talk about their academic success, their high expectations for these kids - it felt like we were amongst the presence of greatness. The teacher ended her welcoming remarks by telling her of her vision where her students would one day be in our places - running successful businesses - a great dream to have!!!

After that, it was our pleasure to head outside to awaiting projects - we built picnic tables, benches, reprinted the playground stripes, built planter boxes, and unearthed the sidewalk from an adjacent empty lot. It was fun to work side by side with some IFA members that we know well, and we met many new people too. Of course in our true style, there was pride in the fact that our group assembled our picnic table fastest!

Awesome experience - great weather, interesting people, a great cause and hope for the future.