January 01, 2006
Keep those beads to yourself

Another casualty of Hurricane Katrina - Atlanta police say "No bead tossing!" during the pre-Sugar Bowl parade.

The ban was widely interpreted as an effort to head off the practice of women baring their breasts in exchange for Mardi Gras beads.

Gayle Martin, who came from Lafayette, La., to see Louisiana State University play in the Peach Bowl on Friday, said it was absurd to think anyone would do that here. "It's too cold," Martin, 56, said, adding, "Atlanta's full of a lot of stuffed shirts, so what can you do?"

The police said the ban was prompted by unspecified public safety concerns.

The public was not buying it. "It's 'Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez,' Baptist-style," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said in a cheeky front-page article — one of several articles marveling at the ephemeral inroads made here by Louisiana culture. An Internet poll of more than 2,500 readers was running nearly three to one in favor of tossing beads.


Barry Kern, a New Orleans native whose family has been in the float-building business for four generations and who is producing the Atlanta parade, said that "throws," as the beads and doubloons are called, added to the excitement and made spectators feel like participants. Kern said that he produced parades all over the world, and that Atlanta was not the first city to ban the throws.

"It always comes down to the same thing: it's a misinterpretation and a misconception," he said. "It's an uneasiness on the part of the city from the perspective of public safety."

That argument does have merit. Georgia has no statute that compares with Louisiana's "coconut law," named after the gilded coconuts tossed by the Krewe of Zulu. The law says anyone attending a Mardi Gras parade "assumes the risk of being struck by any missile whatsoever which has been traditionally thrown, tossed or hurled by members of the krewe or organization." And even since that law was enacted, lawsuits have marred many a Mardi Gras.

But to a Louisianian, a parade is just not a parade without beads. Molly Adkins, 17, of Baton Rouge, was strolling the streets of Atlanta with a purple and gold feather boa around her neck. Adkins said she knew of the bead-tossing ban: "We heard they were just going to pass them out. That just seems really strange."

Seems strange to me, too. I can understand why the Atlanta police were concerned, but I still think they overdid it. Hopefully it won't matter next year, when the Sugar Bowl is back where it belongs.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 01, 2006 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack