If the Society of St. Anne was a river, the Marigny would be the location of Lake Itasca. That’s the source in upstate Minnesota that begins a trek connecting with arteries to become the mighty Mississippi River. This year is the 50th anniversary of the society, which winds over a course stretching through the Marigny and the Quarter, and is filled with hundreds of maskers who walk a path, centering on Royal Street, leading to Canal Street to pay homage to the passing Rex parade. Along the way, that flow creates one of Carnival’s most effervescent sights, that of a river of costumers who enrich the Quarter with sequined brilliance. There is no phoniness; no hucksterism; no commercialism.
St. Anne was founded in 1969 by float designer Henri Schindler, along with friends Jon Newlin and Paul Poche. Through the years there have been sub-groups participating and even variations in the route. For the most part, the path had remained consistent with the R Bar at 1434 Royal Street, being a gathering point for the society and those who just join in. Bands are dispersed throughout. Dancing continues.
St. Anne is both joyful and solemn, the latter coming from a tradition, tracing back to the group’s AIDS- era founding, in which some of its members gather at the river to sprinkle the ashes of the departed. The former comes from the joy and spectacle carried along the route. St. Anne at full force is the world’s image of what Mardi Gras should be—blocks filled with maskers (wearing creative costumes) shimmying to a conga beat that echoes off the Quarter’s ancient buildings.
Bound with tradition, as Carnival is, there are lots of “should be’s” to the celebration. Our cover story looks at the emerging issues of throws being more eco-friendly. Not only would that be better for the environment, but it could help support smaller cottage industries specializing in such trinkets.
We also look at a revival of what used to be, that being satire in parades. One Krewe, Le Krewe D’Etat is especially good at it, as our pictorial of last year’s parade shows,
As for this year, if you’re downtown on Mardi Gras, as you should be, swing by the Quarter and look for St. Anne. Everywhere else the day is just another Tuesday. In New Orleans we pause to worship a saint.