Masks, beads and protests mark Mardi Gras parade

Mar. 04, 2014 @ 09:48 PM

German composer Richard Strauss may or may not have approved. Members of The Bulltown Strutters street band played the opening fanfare to Strauss’ piece “Thus Spake Zarathustra” as several members of  The League of the Tutu fastened and secured a tutu around the torso of the Major the bull sculpture in CCB Plaza Tuesday.

The transformation of Major into “Bullerina” marked the beginning of the 2014 Mardi Gras Parade. Mary Yordy, the member of the Tutu league who started this pre-parade ritual in 2011, said she wanted the band to play a Cajun song, but Strauss was all right.

Tuesday’s parade had several firsts.

Since 2011, organizers have presented the informal Mardi Gras parade. In previous years, revelers had to walk on the sidewalks as they made their way north to Rigsbee Avenue and its intersection with West Geer Street. This year, organizers got a city permit to close portions of East Chapel Hill and Rigsbee to allow for a true street parade.

This year, amid the masks, beads, bands, costumes and other evidence of a pre-Lent Bacchanalia, there also were protesters. As the parade gathered in CCB Plaza, several protesters gathered across Corcoran, carrying signs stating “Heaven or Hell – America Repent” and “Fear God – You Have Sinned.”

As the parade formally lined up on Market Street, one participant yelled, “We’ve got protesters!”

Ross Jackson, who was preaching into a megaphone, said he and other protesters were not members of any particular church, but were Christians out to spread the word.

“This is what it’s going to look like on judgment day,” Jackson said into the megaphone. To which a parade marcher replied, “Yeah!”

As the parade proceeded onto Rigsbee, protesters merged and blended with the rest of the marchers, who wore a wide array of costumes. Dressed in hot pink were members of a recently formed flamingo krewe (organizations that march in the parade). Talitha Sanders, Ellen Martin, Pam Moffatt and Susan Linn came with George Beckerman, whom they called the “flamingi.”

Beckerman is from New Orleans and was visiting Durham for his grandson’s birthday, “and I got shanghaied,” he said.

Spring Davis was with the Organic Transit krewe, and came to the parade in her ELF, the solar-powered vehicles made by Organic Transit.

“I loved attending last year, and I wanted to show off my ELF this year,” Davis said. A line of five ELF vehicles were part of the parade.

Kyle Knight wore a blue and red blanket and matching face mask. He bought the mask in northern California, and found a sheet that happened to match the colors. He planned to sell Mardi Gras T-shirts during the parade.

Before the parade, Ann Skye and her 5-year-old daughter Hayley already had beads on. They found out about the parade last year by accident, Ann Skye said.

“Now it’s a must. We had so much fun,” she said.

Since 2011, more krewe organizations have formed. Among the many on hand Tuesday were the Poetry in Motion Krewe, the Krewe of Gispert, and Lola the Dragon, a children’s krewe that made a papier-mache walking dragon.

Temperatures in the 30s did not hurt the spirit of the parade. When the parade ended at West Geer Street, part of Rigsbee was closed and a street party began, where revelers could fatten up before the first day of Lent.