Getting rich quick: Tips on acquiring Mardi Gras beads and throws (2023)

Increasing your chances of reaping a worthy share of the coveted spoils begins with recognizing that, while throws are sometimes tossed at random to parade audiences, most of what float riders toss is aimed at specific people, with a lot of the best stuff saved for friends and family members along the way.

Getting rich quick in the Mardi Gras bead-and-bauble economy

Aggressively seeking loot at the 2009 Krewe of Endymion parade

Throws make Mardi Gras parades interactive, turning spectators into willful participants who revel in the thrill and challenge of acquiring prized beads and baubles.

(Video) What do you do with Mardi Gras beads? (How to make a bead dog)

Although throws are sometimes tossed at random to parade audiences, most of what comes off of parade floats is aimed at specific people, with a lot of the best stuff saved for friends and family members along the way. So how to increase your chances of reaping a worthy share of the coveted spoils?

Follow these tips:

As a float is passing, instead of just waiving and glancing quickly from rider to rider, zero in on a single rider. Establish eye contact, flash a big smile and make a lot of noise. If necessary, stretch the truth to help plead your case (example: “Please, mister — I came all the way from Manitoba! It’s my first Mardi Gras!”). Do not approach the float and try to grab throws from a rider.

Height is always an advantage, so consider bringing a ladder, footstool or ice chest to stand on. While ladders with seats bolted on top have long been are a great way to help kids overcome their height disadvantage, nowadays more and more adults seem to feel entitled to an elevated perch. And indeed, longer ladders without seats seem increasingly in vogue among grown-up throw mongers.

(Video) Mardi Gras 2022

With all the jostling that goes on in the frenzy for throws, carrying another person on your shoulders can be dangerous, especially in the street. If you do it, stand next to a light standard or signpost in case you need to grab onto something to steady yourself.

When a throw lands on the street, don’t immediately reach for it. Instead, place your foot over it and wait a few seconds until it’s clear to those around that you’ve established ownership. Then pick it up. If you try to grab for it right away, your hand may get stomped on.

Sometimes, two or more people will snag the same throw. This is a give-and-take situation, and while it should go without saying that the first person to get his or her hand around a throw is the rightful owner, you’ll find some grabby people out there who wouldn’t know Carnival etiquette if it bonked them on the head. So, sometimes it’s best just to let something go rather than make a big issue out of it. Besides, there’s plenty for everyone.

Don’t send the wrong signal to riders by wearing a lot of beads. Instead, stash what you catch in a bag and consider auditioning for the role of the poor soul who has been deprived of bead wealth. When you catch the attention of a rider, point to your unadorned self while shouting, with a hint of desperation in your voice, “I need beads, mister —please!”

(Video) What to do with Your Leftover Mardi Gras Beads

Cute kids + clever sign = throw magnet

Position yourself accordingly – and reap the overflow.

Choosing where to stand for a parade can be important. Being next to throw magnets is usually a profitable strategy. Throw magnets include cute kids, soldiers, fetching females, nuns, pregnant ladies, people in wheelchairs and anyone with a clever sign. Reap the overflow. And make sure you’re not standing under low-hanging tree branches (beads get caught in trees).

Also, note that some sections of parade routes are lined with barricades. As anyone afflicted with a lust for throws can attest, it can be almost unbearably frustrating when a barricade stands between you and a choice trinket lying just a few feet away in the street. Fortunately in the context of Mardi Gras, there is no shame in begging a police officer on the other side of the barricade to retreive the throw for you or at least kick it in your direction. Sometimes sweet talk can deliver the object of your affection.

While spectators right up against the barricades or in the first couple of rows won’t go home empty-handed, most dedicated booty-seekers prefer sections of the route that aren’t barricaded. For one thing, freedom of movement means more opportunities to forage for throws and interact with maskers. (Just don’t ever dart in front of a float or try to retrieve throws from underneath a float.)

(Video) Ochsner Jr. Academy - MARDI GRAS BEAD SERIES #1 Common Physics Principles

When a parade comes to a standstill — a fairly frequent occurrence, especially with big parades — not being restricted by barricades can be particularly advantageous. People will crowd around the floats and fervently beseech the maskers, up close. If you think you’ve got some clever come-ons and one-liners, this is the time to give it your best shot.

The most famous — and sought after — parade throw is the Zulu coconut, also known as the Golden Nugget. Members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, unable to afford beads or trinkets, first began distributing coconuts in their natural hairy state in 1910. Shaving, painting and decorating evolved as techniques in the 1930s and 1940s. Still made by hand, they come in a variety of fanciful styles. Most parade-goers feel blessed to come home with just one of these cherished souvenirs. So imagine the elation and bragging rights if you were to snag 25.

A coconut collector who goes by the handle stephenj2 on YouTube accomplished this remarkable feat at the 2009 Zulu parade, and he’s got video footage of the spoils to prove it. His secret weapon: a pole with a hoop net on the end. It’s particularly effective given that Zulu coconuts, for liability reasons, must be handed, not thrown, to parade spectators.

A butterfly net is better than nothing, but if you’re really serious consider a fishing net with a telescoping handle that can extend at least six feet. Although pricey, theEGO Series 2 Telescoping Netfrom Cabela’s boasts a 56-inch slider handle that extends up to an “incredible” 87 inches. And with a hefty 31-inch netting depth — ideal trying to snag those elusive oversize plush toys and mascots — it might be just the ticket for aspiring big-time booty hunters.

Parade goers with the best signs often make out like bandits. Signs meant to challenge or incite riders can prove enticing (example: a bulls-eye target with the words “You Throw Like a Girl”). Clever topical riffs can also be effective. A sign spotted at the first Mardi Gras (2006) after Hurricane Katrina depicted water rushing through a ruptured floodwall and invited float riders to “Help Fill the Breach.” (Riders like to test their aim.) And an all-female krewe would likely reward a man holding a placard proclaiming, “I Always Put the Seat Down.”

Speaking of women’s krewes… If you’re begging for throws from lady maskers, drop the “mister.” Instead, say “Throw me something, dawlin!” or “Hey, dawlin’!” or “Throw me some love, dawlin’!”

(Video) How three women's 'Epiphany' created biodegradable Mardi Gras throws

Regrettably, some overzealous parade goers will push people, even children, out of the way to get throws, or brazenly interfere with a one-on-one “transaction” between a rider and a spectator. Yet the vast majority of the people lining the routes are considerate and don’t let the competition for throws trump civility. Make friends with the people around you, and be willing to share the wealth if you catch a cluster or bag of beads. Give throws to other people’s children. Chances are you will be rewarded — with throws, food, beverages, maybe even an invite to a party.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious and a parade is rolling on the Uptown route, consider the “double-dip” strategy. Position yourself near the beginning of the route, and after the last float passes, walk a couple blocks to Magazine Street and catch the#11 busdowntown to the Central Business District or Canal Street, where you can watch the parade again and gorge on a second helping of trinkets.

However much it may seem that beads are an expression of status at Mardi Gras, like so much bling-bling on a rap star, don’t get so overloaded that you become a tangled mess and risk asphyxiation. And avoid sleeping with your beads on, or else you may need a pair of scissors in the morning to extricate yourself from a hopelessly intertwined mass of baubles.


Why are beads thrown at Mardi Gras? ›

But the practice of throwing beads at Mardi Gras was inspired by Renaissance festivals that took place before Lent, where revelers would toss things into the air in celebration of the coming fast.

How do you earn Mardi Gras beads? ›

How can you get Mardi Gras beads? At the carnival, people usually get their hands on Mardi Gras beads when they're tossed from floats in the parade. Spectators at the carnival are traditionally supposed to shout 'Throw me something, mister', as a way of asking for the beads.

What do you throw at Mardi Gras? ›

Throws often include doubloons, beads, cups, homemade trinkets, toys and more! The throwing of trinkets to the crowds was started in the early 1870s by the Twelfth Night Revelers, and is a time-honored expectation for young and old alike. In 1884, Rex started using medallions instead of trinkets.

What are 3 Mardi Gras traditions? ›

Mardi Gras is about music, parades, picnics, floats and excitement. It's one big holiday in New Orleans! Revelers know to wear costumes or at least dress in purple, green, and gold, and adorn themselves with long beads caught from the floats of previous parades.

What do beads symbolize? ›

Beads generally symbolize positive things including protection, union, growth, good luck, etc.

Why shouldn't you pick up beads in New Orleans? ›

Catch them in the air instead!

But this is actually frowned upon among locals. Picking up beads from the floor is considered bad luck in New Orleans. The streets also get rather unsanitary during Carnival season. So, practise your reflexes by catching the beads while they're still in the air.

Do girls flash for beads in New Orleans? ›

No, most people get beads at parades just by waving their hands. We aren't going to say flashing doesn't happen, but it's not as prevalent as "Girls Gone Wild" would like you to think.

Do people flash for beads in New Orleans? ›

Revelers arrive in New Orleans for Carnival each year, head to the French Quarter and drink too much. Then, in a burst of exhibitionism, some of them expose their breasts or other body parts in exchange for cheap plastic beads. While the practice isn't widely condoned, it's nevertheless a custom of modern Mardi Gras.

What do you throw in a parade? ›

  • Parade sponsorships and participation are a great way to generate interest in your local business, non-profit, or group. ...
  • PINWHEELS. ...
  • FLAGS. ...
  • FANS. ...

What do you do on Fat Tuesday? ›

During Shrove Tuesday, many Christians participate in confession, burn their palms from the previous Palm Sunday (which is the Sunday before Easter), and finalize their Lenten sacrifice or the penance they'll practice, like volunteering or praying more.

What color beads are good luck? ›

Green. Green is the color of renewal, growth and prosperity. It has also been linked with luck and abundance. It is a positive color that helps balance the heart and the emotions, promoting love for others and for nature.

What beads are for positive energy? ›

6 Crystal Bead Bracelets for positive energy and happiness
  • Turquoise. Turquoise gemstones are good overall, as it has the energy to put people at ease. ...
  • Rose Quartz. As you can probably guess, Rose quartz promotes healthy romantic relationships. ...
  • Quartz. ...
  • Amethyst. ...
  • Lapis Lazuli. ...
  • Tiger Eye.

What do the bead colors mean? ›

Color meanings

Blue: healing, harmony, insight, truth. Brown: earth, stability. Green: prosperity, fertility, abundance, hope, healing. Purple: spirituality, wisdom, royalty. Red: vitality, passion, bravery, confidence.

What does throwing beads in New Orleans mean? ›

The tradition of bead throwing began far back, before the discovery of America or the founding of Louisiana in the 1760s by the French. The holiday began as a pagan celebration of spring and fertility that preceded the Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia.

What does wearing beads in New Orleans mean? ›

Beads used on Mardi Gras (known as Shrove Tuesday in some regions) are purple, green, and gold, with these three colors containing the Christian symbolism of justice, faith, and power, respectively.

Why do they grease poles in New Orleans? ›

Greasing of the Poles is considered by many to be the French Quarter's official kickoff to Mardi Gras weekend. Royal Sonesta New Orleans originated the ritual of greasing the building's support poles as a practical means to deter overzealous revelers from shimmying up to the coveted balcony space.

Why are there beads on trees in New Orleans? ›

The tree became a symbol of New Orleans culture on Tulane's campus when students began throwing Mardi Gras beads onto the tree, believing that if the beads held onto a branch it would bring them good luck.

Why do guys give girls Fiesta beads? ›

The necklaces can be found pretty much anywhere during the Mardi Gras celebrations, and the idea is this: you give a woman a bead necklace in exchange for her flashing you.

How many beads are thrown annually in New Orleans? ›

20. An estimated 25 million pounds of plastic beads are tossed in Mardi Gras each year in New Orleans.

Can you throw yourself a parade in New Orleans? ›

While it's a little-known fact, it's actually quite simple to throw your very own second line parade in New Orleans, legally and complete with police escort and marching band.

Should I bring beads to New Orleans? ›

If you're coming to town for the first time, don't buy beads. There are many parades were you will have the opportunity to catch some beads and we promise that you will not go home empty handed. You will catch so many beads you'll be able to pass them out to friends and family back home.

What are the 3 things that should be done during a throw in? ›

Thrust the ball forward resulting in your entire body going forward. Release the ball as it just goes past the head. drag your back foot as you follow through to maintain momentum while keeping your feet on the ground.

How do you get the most candy at a parade? ›

Here are a few tips and tricks for bringing home the maximum amount of candy:
  1. Positioning: Don't take your chances and position yourself at the end of the parade. ...
  2. Children: Also known as, Candy Magnets. ...
  3. Acknowledgement: You'd be surprised what flashing a smile or giving a friendly wave can do.

What is the leader of a parade called? ›

Parade grand marshals

A community grand marshal or other designations may be selected alongside a grand marshal to lead the front or other parts of the parade.

What do you drink on Fat Tuesday? ›

10 essential Mardi Gras cocktails to serve on Fat Tuesday
  • Hurricane. This bright and boozy cocktail has been packing a strong punch since the 1930s. ...
  • Ramos Gin Fizz. This classic gin cocktail was named after Henry C. ...
  • Sazerac. ...
  • Pimm's Cup. ...
  • Pomme en Croute. ...
  • Brandy Milk Punch. ...
  • French 75. ...
  • Mardi Gras Jello Shots, 2 ways.
12 Aug 2021

What are you supposed to eat on Fat Tuesday? ›

34 Mardi Gras Food Ideas to Celebrate Fat Tuesday at Home
  • New Orleans-style Beignets. These pillowy bites are easier to make at home than you might think. ...
  • Shrimp Étouffée. ...
  • Seafood Gumbo. ...
  • Shrimp And Andouille Jambalaya. ...
  • Shrimp Po' Boys With Avocado-mango Slaw. ...
  • Easy Shrimp Creole. ...
  • Mardi Gras King Cake. ...
  • Red Beans And Rice.
10 Feb 2022

What are the colors for Fat Tuesday? ›

The official colors of Fat Tuesday made their debut in 1872 at the first parade of Rex, the king of Mardi Gras. Newspapers of the day ran proclamations from the king of the carnival decreeing that balconies should be draped in purple, gold and green.

Why are the beads in trees in New Orleans? ›

The tree became a symbol of New Orleans culture on Tulane's campus when students began throwing Mardi Gras beads onto the tree, believing that if the beads held onto a branch it would bring them good luck.

What can you do with beads in New Orleans? ›

Recycle the beads

Arc of Greater New Orleans offers a recycling service for your beads and throws. About Arc: Buy recycled Mardi Gras beads and throws for less, and do your part to create “green” jobs for people with intellectual disabilities.

What do New Orleans beads symbolize? ›

Beads used on Mardi Gras (known as Shrove Tuesday in some regions) are purple, green, and gold, with these three colors containing the Christian symbolism of justice, faith, and power, respectively.

Why do people throw beads on trees? ›

After the parade, students throw their beads on the tree hoping for good luck on exams.

What street do they throw beads in New Orleans? ›

Partygoers are known to wear and toss beads - known as “throws” in New Orleans - from the streets and balconies in the French Quarter, Bourbon Street and other areas where partiers jostle through crowds.

What can I do with a lot of beads? ›

7 Ideas for What To Do With Leftover Beads
  • Make Earrings. I love earring patterns. ...
  • Use As Accent Beads. ...
  • Create Beaded Fringe. ...
  • Make A Bead Mix. ...
  • Create A Bead Soup. ...
  • Make A Repair Kit. ...
  • Give Leftover Beads Away.

Is selling beads profitable? ›

Beading is a fun hobby and can be quite lucrative if you can find your market. There are many ways to sell your beaded jewelry; you can have parties with your friends and co-workers, you can set up a booth at a craft show or flea market, and you can sell online via eBay or Etsy.


1. Down the Street: Mardi Gras beads made from recycled magazines
2. (N)SFW: How to Get Mardi Gras Beads
(The Daily Beast)
3. How to Make a Mardi Gras Bead Mosaic
(Artrageous Art Studio)
4. Laurie Wilkie: The Bead Throwing Game of New Orleans Mardi Gras (Podcast Audio)
(Rachel Carson Center)
5. Mardi Gras Book Tag
6. Mother, May I? [Reserve Inspiration] Season 1, Episode 5
(Reserve Inspiration)
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