Throws, Beads, Doubloons, Souvenirs, Trinkets, Goodies: When is enough, enough?

Sixty years after the first Mardi Gras souvenirs were first handed out, has the fascination, obsession run its course?

Thomas Perumean
February 16, 2020 - 11:40 am
Throws: when is enough, enough?

Getty_Images_Lynne_Mitchell

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The throws:  Stuff tossed from moving floats to hungry spectators who wear pounds of them around their necks, adorn their homes with them, turn them into pop art.  

Dian Winingder, riding the last float in the Iris parade tells the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, “By the time we come along, people have so many beads they can’t hold their heads up.”

Over the years, thousands of pounds of beads, thousands of feet of beads, continue to turn up unwanted on streets after parades and can be found littering somewhere year round--or stopping up storm drains, sewers, and flood control channels.

In 2018, when the first bad street flooding occured, Sewerage and Water Board removed more than 46 tons of beads and medalions, trinkets, goodies, whatever from a five block segment of St. Charles Avenue.  

Krewes have taken the hint and starting to scale back on the wholesale free-for-all.  

Bacchus cut its bead alotment in half.  

Rex meanwhile is handing out reusable metal cups instead of plastic ones.  

What began just shy of a century ago with the King of Rex handing out the first commemoratives is now 40-tons of beads, doubloons, cups, beer coolers, footballs, and plush throws, all packed into three shipping containers.  

Endymion's President Dan Kelly is in the import business, Beads by the Dozen.  His order for the year: 125 shipping containers--2,625 tons of stuff to toss!

Even if the krewes know they've reached a tipping point, its still "Let the good stuff throw!"

"Three years ago, we took in about 20 tons," Says Stephen Sauer, director of the non-profit Arc of Greater New Orleans. "Two years ago 60 tons. The past year’s intake was 186.5 tons."
Sauer employs people with intellectual disabilities to sort beads for reuse.  One of his customers is the Krewe of Centurions, who bought 775 sacks of beads from ArcGNO.  

How'd we get this way?

Another Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate story says in 1959 when a local metal artist created the first doubloon for Rex's 1960 parade.  

Within five years a dozen krewes were tossing doubloons of their own.  

But doubloons were costly to make and spectators were growing weary of them by the late 1970's and today are mostly found in the hands of collectors and sold on eBay.  

Iris, by the way, doesn't toss beads anymore.  They give out more practical items: coloring books, playing cards, and umbrella hats.  
 

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