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A Mardi Gras Law Primer

Posted in Our Blog on February 11, 2012


Most of us in New Orleans are familiar with the Zulu Parade’s policy of handing coconuts to parade attendees rather than throwing them. When coconuts were thrown in the past, there were a number of lawsuits alleging injury from errant coconut throws. A 2006 lawsuit gained national attention when a woman claimed injury and described recurring nightmares about coconuts flying at her face.

Mardi Gras is an unusual time of the year with some most unusual laws. Parades such as Zulu are generally exempt from liability if a parade-goer is struck by a throw due to Mardi Gras Immunity Laws. People who attend parades accept a certain amount of danger (small as it may be) and risk of injury, therefore, they bare their own burden. The exception is in cases of “gross or wanton negligence,” such as the intentional hurling of a coconut at a person’s face.

The lawsuit above must have seemed particularly bizarre to anybody who lives outside of this region: “Woman injured by coconut thrown at her face during parade.” But we know and love these eccentricities about our city and state. Here are some Mardi Gras laws you might not have been acquainted with:

No reptiles shall be allowed within 200 yards of a Mardi Gras parade route. This means leaving your snakes, turtles, and alligators at home during the parade. And, if you do happen to own an alligator, don’t risk incurring the fine that comes with tying your alligator to a fire hydrant.

No throwing beads from windows or balconies. The law states that, “It shall be unlawful for any person to throw, cast, or propel any substance from any aperture, window, door, staircase, balcony, or roof that is eight or more feet above street level.” Obviously, this law isn’t the most strictly enforced.

No for-profit fortunetelling permitted within city limits. The law says, “It shall be unlawful for any person to advertise for or engage in, for a monied consideration, the business of (chronology, phreonology, astrology, palmistry), telling or pretending to tell fortunes, either with cards, hands, water, letters or other devices or methods.” As you might have noticed, the palm- or Tarot Card-reader you’ll find in Jackson Square on any given day doesn’t necessarily work “for profit,” but they all highly encourage donations.

Smoking not allowed during parades. The law requires not only that smoking be prohibited during parades, but that each float in every parade must have a “no smoking” sign secured and visible to everybody on board the float.

And, my personal favorite:

Paraders are not allowed to throw live marine animals from floats. The law explicitly prohibits those riding on floats from throwing, “Any insects, marine life, rodents, fowl or other animals, dead or alive.” So no dolphins or lobster, guys.

So let’s remember that we’re blessed to live in such a unique, strange, and wonderful city, and remember to be safe this parade season. Happy Mardi Gras!