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The Big Easy was a dream come true

By By James Crawford
Life in Atmore continues to be a good thing for the Crawford family. I have on several occasions talked about the virtues of small town living and the wonderful hospitality of the people we've encountered since we came here. One other perk that I haven't mentioned is that Atmore is really close to a lot of fantastic places that I have never been too nor would have had an opportunity to visit if I was still in Tuscaloosa.
One of those places happen to become available this past weekend and it enabled me to live out a dream of mine that I've had since I was 15 – to partake of Mardi Gras – IN New Orleans – ON Bourbon Street.
Now I could probably stop writing right now and my experiences and enjoyment would be conveyed with the above sentence. But that wouldn't do justice to the 16 years I've waited to head down to the land down under and the agony I've felt each year upon hearing of the many tales of Mardi Gras fever from my friends.
The Mardi Gras bug hit me literally as soon as I arrived in Atmore. My boss and publisher Paul Keane is a Mardi Gras aficionado and has instilled in me even more tales of bead tossing and moon pies than I already knew. He even through in a few history lessons to fan the flame and played endless tunes from Jimmy Buffett, as if that wouldn't inspire anyone to seek out the gothic city.
As the day approached, it all looked in vain as we hadn't secured a baby sitter all week but a last minute godsend from our much-appreciated neighbors gave us a place to deposit the young one and a ticket to the open road.
We had originally planned to just head to Mobile, honestly. But when we got to the other side of the city and still felt refreshed enough to drive the extra time, we just couldn't pass up the lure of chicken on a stick and glow in the dark glasses and party reveling.
Getting to New Orleans was no problem, finding a place to park in New Orleans is about as complicated as planning a trip to the moon. If you ever go during an event, please plan ahead and save yourself the hassle. We finally got lucky with a 24-hour lot for $20 that had a real live attendant to watch your car and we were only three blocks from the parade. The stars had lined up for sure.
I have never in my life watched so many colorful floats and costumes in one place. It truly was amazing. We caught enough beads to fill my truck and I have dozens of Kodak moments captured on film. The smells of carnival-type food and the beautiful scenery in the background only added to the magical night. New Orleans really does come alive during Mardi Gras.
Now of course, we had been warned to look out for trouble and drunks and although we saw some of that it wasn't that big of a deal. The crowed scenes on Bourbon however were not something you want to take lightly – picture being trampled to death at a soccer match in Europe or a fire at a nightclub. It was packed to put it mildly and you couldn't move at all during certain times. There were rude and obnoxious people forcing their way through the crowd and knocking people into each other but I guess that's to be expected. You can't tell just the nice people to show up at the biggest party of the year. That just wouldn't be fair I suppose.
The following day, we took our daughter over to Mobile and caught the last parade of the day. She grabbed a handful of beads and had a blast. I even managed to catch her a stuffed animal or two. She at the age of 11 was able to live out the dream I have had for more than her lifetime. I'm a bit envious but I'm glad we all got the chance to go. It truly was amazing and living in Atmore made it all possible.