Monday, June 18, 2007

What Street Party could learn from Mardis Gras

When we're brainstorming an issue of ArtScene, we tend to just yank any idea out of the air and run with it as far as we can go. Sometimes that gets us to some interesting places, sometimes that gets us to some entertaining places, and sometimes that just gets us to some odd places.

The "What Street Party could learn from Mardis Gras" piece was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek look at decadence of the New Orleans festival, and how we could take some inspiration from that decadence.

We yanked the story from print mostly because there wasn't room for it, but also because -- of the stories we had to choose from for the yanking -- this one seemed like it had the most potential to offend. It wasn't our intention at all to offend the Street Party -- in fact, we're quite fond of them -- but sometimes the best of intentions pave the road to hell. And sometimes they just piss people off.

I'm running this story here with the disclaimer that we do not hate the street party, we do not think there's anything wrong with the street party, and do not think the street party need to do anything to improve. Though, you know, I wouldn't complain about the whole "beads for breasts" thing.

At first glance, there seems to be little in common between the Williams Lake Street Party, and the Mardis Gras festivities that occur annually in New Orleans. Yes, they are both street festivals of some degree, but the similarities pretty much end there.

But should they? Thousands of people from around the world descend on New Orleans every year in January to participate in the weeks-long party, and then spend the next several months recuperating from the experience. It's obviously a massive boost to their tourism revenue, and perhaps other regions -- ours included -- could learn a few tips from the event. Here's a few thoughts on ideas that could be borrowed from Mardis Gras and adapted into our own Street Party.

#1. Everyone Loves A Parade.
Yes, the Williams Lake Stampede is opened each year with its own parade, but that's just one. Mardis Gras has a parade every single day of the festival. I'll say that again -- they have a parade every single day. Now, granted, its conceivable that many of the floats are recycled day after day, but it's not like anyone will notice, what with the whole being drunk thing.

#2. Costumes aren't just for Halloween
One of the best things about roaming the streets of New Orleans during Mardis Gras is having the opportunity to see a wide variety of complicated and creative costumed, worn by the wilder of the revelers. And because the whole Mardis Gras thing is pretty darn decadent to begin with, many of the costumes are designed to show maximum skin. And there's nothing wrong with bumping into that sort of thing on a stroll through downtown.

#3. Beads, beads, beads.
Strings of beads have been handed out to participants of Mardis Gras since at least the late 19-century, but it's the more recent tradition of women baring the breasts in exchange for them that is the Mardis Gras tradition worth borrowing. They're already tipsy, they're already scantily clad, why not flash a little bit more skin in exchange for a worthless gift being handed over by a sweaty male who's smiling just a little bit too widely? To fit a bit better with the timing of Street Party during stampede season, we could exchange beads for bolo ties.

#4. "My Parents Went To Street Party And All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt"
Mardis Gras is a marketing dream, helped considerably by the fact that, as a holiday, no one company can claim exclusive rights to selling Mardis Gras products. And, of course, everyone wants to bring a souvenir of their trip back home, whether as a keepsake for themselves, or something to give to the relatives who couldn't make the festivities in the first place. After incorporating these other suggestions into the Williams Lake Street Party, we'll be sure to have enough tourists rubbing shoulders on our streets that the sort of money we could make from the sales of souvenirs would be literally astronomical. Which is good, because the clean-up job required after everything is said and done certainly won't be cheap.

Don't get me wrong, There's no problems with our current Street Party -- it's an enjoyable street festival, with an incredible amount of information to offer. But there's room for improvement in everything, and if you're going to look to improve, why not reach for the stars?

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