One would imagine that with revelers in town for Mardi Gras, a fairly cohesive system of oversight must be in place. Outsiders may wonder: are there rules governing the wearing of Mardi Gras masks on public streets? Are there groups organized to censor inappropriate behavior? Are there rules about Mardi Gras dictating what float riders can throw? All of these questions would be valid.
The truth is, there really is no overarching oversight “committee” or entity that is tasked with controlling this celebration, which seeps into every community of South Louisiana and beyond. From Mardi Gras decorations to themes, most issues are left to individual krewes to decide.
This is not to suggest that there is no oversight; there is. Local laws about the behavior of citizens are still in play. Additionally, parades require permits. In order to obtain one, there may be requirements such as proof that the group has a certain amount of insurance. There may be requirements that a certain number of police or security be present along the parade route. There may be other health and safety regulations. Mardi Gras beads and discarded Mardi Gras hats, trinkets, boxes, bags, and other refuse needs to be cleaned up after the parade; this is often an issue that is also in play when krewes apply for marching permits.
However, there is no one governing body that controls these things. Most of these issues are handled on a very local level, and can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The “oversight” in New Orleans may be dramatically different than the rules governing parade safety in neighboring Jefferson Parish, just moments away. There also may be rules enforced only in certain neighborhoods, such as the French Quarter.
Clearly, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to maintain the safety of the “Greatest Free Show on Earth.”