Easter Sunday’s lineup of parades starts early that morning with The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade from Antoine’s Restaurant to St. Louis Cathedral for Mass. The parade, consisting largely of mule-drawn carriages and old convertibles, makes its leisurely, roundabout way through the French Quarter, handing out stuffed Easter bunnies to the kids, along with other trinkets.
Following Mass, participants in the parade promenade to Jackson Square opposite the Cathedral to show off their Easter bonnets and other finery before returning to Antoine’s. Awards are given out for the best Easter bonnets, Easter baskets and overall Easter attire.
Usually after lunch is the Chris Owens French Quarter Easter Parade. This tradition, which began back in the early 1980s, features renowned French Quarter singer, dancer and all-around entertainer Chris Owens as the Grand Duchess. She stands proudly on her gaily decorated float, assisted by elegantly attired attendants while decked out in one of her stunning, tight-fitting outfits.
The parade usually starts at the corner of Canal and Bourbon streets and makes its way through the French Quarter, past the Chris Owens Club at 500 Bourbon, with colorful floats and vintage convertibles and accompanied by one or more of the city’s famous brass bands. There are also dance groups and other entertainers. And, of course, since this is a New Orleans parade, there will be plenty of throws – Easter-themed – to catch from the floats and the open-top cars.
Then, later in the afternoon, is yet another parade, the Gay Easter Parade, put on by the city’s LGBT community. Being nowhere near as wild or extravagant as a Mardi Gras parade, but rather family-friendly, the Gay Easter Parade takes a leisurely route through the French Quarter, passing every gay bar and many gay-owned restaurants and retail shops. The paraders ride horse-drawn carriages or floats while wearing showy versions of their Easter Sunday finest. Don’t be surprised if you see a gaggle of motorcycle dudes in leather and Easter bonnets roar by. Spectators can expect to catch plenty of beads and other throws.
There is also an annual Easter Bonnet Contest at Good Friends Bar, a LGBT neighborhood bar at the corner of Dauphine and St. Ann streets in the French Quarter. Anyone can join in and some of the bonnet entries can get pretty outlandish. The crowd votes for the winners, and you can almost certainly expect to hear impromptu renditions of Irving Berlin’s classic song for the occasion, “Easter Parade.”