It is officially that time of year, Louisiana. Mardi Gras season is upon us. Gather your tacky purple, gold and green shirts and prepare to make the yearly pilgrimage to New Orleans for the most overrated week of your life.
Approximately 1.2 million people attended Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 2011, which is more than three times the population of the city itself. The huge increase in people coming to the city make it impossible to function. Everything is overpriced, the garbage and filth are horrendous, and the crowds are unbearable.
The economic impact on New Orleans was valued at $145.7 million in 2009. This cost includes paying overtime for police, sanitation and other city officials to keep the festivities running as smoothly, safely and cleanly as possible. While the city did make the money back fourfold by the end of the season, it is important to look at the non-monetary costs of the celebrations, as well.
During the 2017 celebration, over 200 tons of garbage were picked up from the streets of New Orleans. That is 3 pounds of litter per person in the city. Much of that garbage is recyclable but must be thrown away anyway because it is contaminated. To keep the city clean, there are more than 600 city employees working day and night to clean up after every parade. Their goal is to make it look like nothing happened by the next day, just so people can do it all over again.
Some of the trash never gets picked up. Beads hang on the trees, utility poles and fences year-round. Beads also get in the sewers, clogging them and making the already problem-ridden drainage in the city worse.
Transportation around the city for all the inebriated people is made extremely expensive and difficult because of parade road closures and bad traffic. The city is deadlocked every evening, which is the exact time people want to go places. Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft hike up their surge fees to ensure they are making a pretty penny off drunk people just trying to have fun.
Alcohol sales spiked by $2.6 million in New Orleans during the 2009 season. With that jump in sales comes a jump in consumption for people of all ages. Underage drinking is especially rampant. The lack of open container laws make it easy for all ages to enjoy drinks as they wish on the streets.
These drunk people do impact others when they act irresponsibly. In 2017, a drunk driver hit a crowd of people watching the Endymion parade. His blood-alcohol concentration was three times over the legal limit. The same year, there was a whopping 373 people arrested in 12 days for all sorts of offenses. Many of the arrests were for weapons, and 39 guns were confiscated during that period. Rape, armed robbery, assault and other offenses happen often, as well.
Many drunk adults choose to take part in a flashing ritual in hopes they receive more beads. What some people fail to remember is that public nudity is illegal. While many women do not get in trouble for it during Mardi Gras, men do. So, keep your clothes on, please.
Save yourself the cliché this year and abstain from the dirty and overpriced New Orleans Mardi Gras experience. If you are hellbent on experiencing Mardi Gras, consider going to another city that also celebrates it. Mobile, Alabama is the birthplace of Mardi Gras and throws some awesome parades, as well. Still not convinced that New Orleans Mardi Gras is a bad idea? Fine. Have fun wading through trash with the rest of the drunken city.
Sarah Grobety is a 20-year-old mass communication junior from Atlanta, Georgia.