“Throw me something, mister!” Crowds yell it to float riders in a parade as it rolls down the streets of New Orleans.
If the float riders are ladies, you might hear the same phrase but with “sister” used instead of mister.
No matter what people shout out, they all want one thing. To catch loads and loads of beads, trinkets, toys and doubloons thrown by members of the Krewe.
You might think the plastic beads and toys are worthless knickknacks. You would be mistaken. Krewe members and float riders spend hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars to buy the throws so parade watchers can have a good time and experience the thrill of catching something.
“People are paying for the rock-star experience,” said Greg Grace, owner of Beads for Less in Lafayette. “You get to be a celebrity on the stage in your town.”
Grace should know. He is a veteran float rider and belongs to no fewer than three Mardi Gras krewes. He also owns a Mardi Gras store that sells every kind of throw a krewe member might need.
So what does it cost to ride in a parade? Depending on the parade and krewe, the cost can be substantial.
Beads can run anywhere from $25 to $40 dollars per case. Some beads are small and colorful, while others are large and elaborate. Some specialty beads have the krewe emblem on them (those have to be specially ordered) or some other decorative items that make them more costly. According to Grace and most retailers we spoke to, it takes about 10 cases of beads to last the entire parade route.
But that’s just for beads. These days, Grace said, float riders want something more to wow the crowds.“Some people don’t throw beads because you get a better reaction from the crowds,” he said. “Throws can run anywhere from under a dollar apiece up to 50 dollars and more per dozen.”
The most popular items include toy footballs, hula hoops, spears, bouncing balls, stuffed animals and other wacky toys. Grace said he only throws items such as this and rarely throws beads.
“When you stand up there and you are holding a hula hoop the crowd couldn’t care less about the people throwing the beads,” he added.
Most parades last about three hours, so riders need to take that into account and have enough items to last the whole parade. What does that add up to? According to Grace, most riders will spend about $500.