Mardi Gras is over for another year. We all had a great time and all our visitors have gone home. Things are back to normal, or as normal as they get in New Orleans. I spoke to a friend today who came in for Mardi Gras this year. He asked if things were cleaned up yet. I realized that some things I take for granted about Mardi Gras because I'm a native are really completely unknown by visitors. One of them is how the city has the Mardi Gras cleanup thing down pat. In fact the cleanup crew follows every parade and the area is all cleaned up a few hours after the parade has passed. By the middle of Wednesday afternoon the French Quarter streets have been washed down and all signs of Mardi Gras are gone, except for the one reminder of Mardi Gras that stays all year-the beads hanging in the trees and the power lines.
One of the reasons that the French Quarter can be cleaned up so quickly is that Mardi Gras ends at midnight. It's one of those quirky Mardi Gras traditions that many visitors just don't know about. Every year at midnight there's a line of NOPD officers, lead by the police chef on horseback that rolls down Bourbon Street. The mounted police processsion is led by police cars with bull horns announcing that's it's midnight and Mardi Gras is over. The crowds part, get on the sidewalk and cheer. It's just like another parade, except the cops don't throw beads. But, it's all in good fun and it's really just a tradition. When the procession of police officers gets to the edge of the French Quarter, they stand up in the saddles and salute the people nearby. The crowd salutes back. After the police officers pass, many of the people go back into the street; but, some leave. Mardi Gras is over for another year. That's how Mardi Gras ends and Lent begins.