Just dance...over and over and over...all night...
February 2, 2010 7:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm marching in a Mardi Gras parade for the first time and I'm a bit nervous. If you've ever been in a parade I'd appreciate some advice and anecdotes!

I'm very excited to be part of a brand-new all-female dance team. We're set to march in two parades. However, I've never done this before and I'm nervous!

- How do you keep your energy up?
- I'm not in the best of shape...am I going to die out there?
- We are wearing majorette boots, which aren't the most comfortable footwear. To top it all off, I currently have a not-quite-healed ingrown toenail that I don't want to re-injure. How do I protect my feet!
- How do I balance hydration with not needing to pee all the time?
- I'm rather delicate physically (two fractured vertabrae, scoliosis, persistent neck pain, etc)...how do I minimize the chance of injuring myself?

Any other tips would be most appreciated!
posted by radioamy to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I marched as part of a band in parades. They do get kind of exhausting, but here are some things that applied to us which may also apply to you:
1) We didn't play the whole time. You, likewise, may not spend the whole time dancing. Sometimes you're just walking, which should give you a little time to rest.
2) If you're working at dancing, you probably won't need to pee. Drink water as you feel you need it, don't drink more than you feel you need (you might gulp down that first glass, but if you don't feel like you need to gulp down the second, don't try to do it anyway).
3) It's fun! There's a lot of energy around you, and that kind of helps keep up your own energy.
4) The parade will probably come to a complete halt a few times. No matter how well arranged a parade, eventually there always seems to be a traffic jam.

I would also watch out for sun on the 12pm parade--wear sunscreen! As for the shoes/feet issues I'm not so sure, comfy socks and padded insoles if you can fit them in. The best thing to do is to know your limits. If you feel like you're going to pass out from exhaustion or if you're in pain, just let your leader or one of your fellow dancers know, and take a break. Perhaps it would be best to ask ahead of time what the best course of action is in these cases.
posted by that girl at 7:59 PM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: I marched in many parades in high school. We wore the majorette boots and walked in the parades in Metairie. As a police officer, I rode a police horse in all of the downtown parades. You will have a blast!

The energy of the crowds along with the music will keep you stepping high. The time passes very quickly.

Wear several pair of cushy socks with your boots. Try wearing your boots around the house as much as you can to get a feel for the fit. You want them snug, any slippage will cause blisters, too much padding will cause your feet to go numb.

Drink lots of water earlier in the day. Make sure to empty your bladder as close to line up time as possible. At this point, do not drink anymore until after the parade. It is okay to take a few swigs from a water bottle. A last resort is to use one of the port-a-lets along the parade route. Your dance uniform will be your ticket back into the parade.

For your last concern, will you have a vehicle or cart of some kind following your group? They usually have several med units trailing at the rear of the parade, you can always fall back to one of the med units and ride the remainder of the parade with them.

Temperatures in the 60's are perfect to parade in; you will stay surprisingly warm. Have a great time!
posted by JujuB at 8:09 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

IANAD, but I used to play in marching bands, and have done a lot of formation parade marching.

Your first parade is 4.1 miles (1 hour and 40 minutes). Your second parade route length is 6.0 miles (2.0 hours). As a member of a dance team, you're not only going to be marching, but dancing and doing your team routines a considerable part of the way.

Have you walked 5 miles lately, in your majorette boots, with all your physical ailments? How did that go? You might want to take a practice walk, at parade pace, along the parade route, in advance, to get a feel for how it will go, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Better you know your capabilities first hand, and can let your unit know if you can't go the distance in advance, than find out on parade days.

Take some ibuprofen or naproxen in advance of marching, to help stave off pain and joint inflammation. The less you hurt, the less you stiffen up, trying to protect yourself, and then wind up hurting more, later. Follow up with appropriate doses of ibuprofen or naproxen, for 48 hours or more following your parades, to control inflammation.

Unless you have unusually hot weather for Mardi Gras, I doubt you'll need to worry about dehydration. In warm weather parades, sometimes, unit auxiliaries (supporters) are stationed 1/2 or 3/4 of the way through the parade, with water cups for those who need it, and the unit falls out of lockstep/parade routine as they pass, to take water individually, and then forms up again, in marching order, 100 feet or so past the water. You could ask about this in one of your pre-parade rehearsals, or meetings, but I wouldn't be surprised if no plans have been made. Don't take drinks from unknown persons in the crowd, for obvious reasons.

Moleskin is helpful for preventing irritation to sensitive foot areas. Polypropylene socks wick away moisture to help minimize blistering. A little Gold Bond or other foot powder helps, too.

If your parade has mounted units (horses) ahead of you, you need to keep an eye out for horse poop/excrement, or your boots will quickly look bad, and you might take a header on a slick bit. More and more parades these days are organized with any mounted units behind most marchers, for this reason, but YMMV, depending on your parade marshalls. Some majorette boots come with plastic covers that are sewn into the boot welt, to keep the white leather uppers clean through the machines that manufacture the boots - instead of tearing them away before wearing, you might want to keep them on through your first parade, and see if they protect your boots from discoloration. I've seen girls use some heat shrinkable clear vinyl, and hair dryers or heat guns, to create boot guards, too. You'll never clean horse manure off white leather majorette boots completely, otherwise, and no polish regimen really covers it well, that I know of, either. Best to cover your boots in plastic, ahead of time, if you're marching behind horses!
posted by paulsc at 8:19 PM on February 2, 2010

I marched in a Mardi Gras parade back in 2001. I believe the route started north of New Orleans, but it eventually snaked south to Canal Street, doubling back to the end of the route near the piers, I think. Anyway. I carried a tenor drum - an old, HEAVY tenor drum. The thing that none of us expected were the delays, of which there were many. At first we'd just mark time, but eventually we'd run out of material, and in one case we just stopped doing the drum cadence and set our instruments down. But as for your questions:

We hydrated early and no one fell out to "go," although there are porta-potties up and down the route if you really have to and feel brave enough to jump the barricades.

I'd recommend wool socks and, if you can, cushions for your boots.

If you're not comfortable walking 5+ miles in those boots, don't march in the parade. Seriously. There may not be a cop or cab nearby to whisk you to the end of the route.

Hydration wasn't really a problem, although cold + wind can = hypothermia if you're in a unitard. Yes, you'll be walking 5+ miles, but there will be periods where you're just marking time or standing there.

Keep an eye on the pavement - there are beads, cups, doubloons, plastic trash of all kinds, beers, sludge, you name it. If you're marching in a late parade, your boots may or may not be covered in scum depending on your route and how froggy everyone's feeling that day.

Also beware of idiots throwing crap back at you. Most of it will miss.

All that being said, the bad is miniscule compared to the awesome feeling of marching in a parade, especially if you're near a float or a band (or in a band.) Have a great time!
posted by squorch at 8:24 PM on February 2, 2010

Response by poster: thatgirl - yes sunscreen! I burn easily, good call.

jujuB - we have a truck with a sound system.

paulsc - hmm I'll have to pick up some Moleskin. I don't know about fancy socks because my base layer will be tights, although I do plan to wear socks over those.

paulsc & squorch - oh god there is going to be (literal and figurative) crap on the street!
posted by radioamy at 8:38 PM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: I like to do a lot of walking, and padded insoles really help - look for the double thick ones, or even put two in each boot (unless of course they make the boots too tight)
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:32 AM on February 3, 2010

Bring hard candy with you. It'll make you thirsty less, and it'll give you something to do while you're standing around not marching. (I remember Thoth being the standing-aroundiest parade I ever marched, but that was about ten years ago.)
posted by sleepingcbw at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2010

Best answer: When you're watching the parade, you scream when a float comes by. When you're on the float, the parade is one long scream.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:46 AM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: All your answers were fabulous! I had a great time last night.

I hadn't thought of pre-hydration, so I'm glad y'all suggested it. I chugged water and Gatorade all day, then I stopped drinking it about 2 hours before. Luckily there was a house right next to where we lined up that let us use the bathroom, so I peed literally 5 minutes before we started. I had some gulps of water when my mouth felt really dry but I didn't overdo it or get drunk like a lot of my teammates! I didn't need to go once during the parade!

My feet are sore but not totally blistered like I expected. One thing I'll put out there for anyone who reads this in the future is that majorette boots are not meant for people with narrow heels and low insteps! I took a thin-ish pair of foamy insoles, folded each over, and used athletic tape to tape it on top of my foot on my instep. That totally made the boots fit!
posted by radioamy at 5:17 PM on February 11, 2010

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