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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 (over 100 years ago!), Rex started using medallions instead of trinkets. These medallions are represented by today's doubloons.

Throughout the parade, masked riders stand atop two and three tiered papier-mache, tractor-towed constructions from which they throw plastic cups, and beads, as well as metal doubloons to the eager crowd.

These doubloons are aluminum and anodized in many different colors, and they depict the parade theme on one side and the Krewe's emblem on the other. If you're lucky enough to catch one, hold onto it -- they have become collectors' items. The riders often spend over $1,000. on their individual stock of "throws" to give out during the parade.

In the early days of the festivities, merry-makers used to carry bags of flour that they would throw at each other. When a mischievous few mixed pepper with their flour, the practice had to be discontinued and safer things thrown. These days, the typical throws are beads, doubloons, and, in recent years, Zapp's potato chips, which come packaged in Carnival colors.

Probably the most valued throws are the hand-painted coconuts tossed by the krewe of Zulu. Onlookers vie energetically - sometimes boldly - to catch the most "stuff". BE WARNED - many an ordinarily gentle, sterling-headed grandmother will stomp your knuckles bloody for that aluminum doubloon, and that bamboo and rubber spear!

Most important, never ever put your hand on the ground to pick up anything! If you want those beads or that doubloon, put your foot on it and don't lift your toe until you have it firmly in your hands.

Other tips for catching favors include taking a nun in habit with you, and standing under a street lamp: she'll be a favorite target for the good Catholics on the floats. Or make a posterboard sign that says "John" and hold it up at each float, figuring that there must be at least one guy named John on every float.

Or cut a large bleach bottle in half and attach the spout to a broom handle so that you have a handy tool to hold up to the riders. Another version of this is to turn an umbrella inside out and hold it up to the riders.

Some parade goers with kids use a special 8 to 10 foot ladder fixed with a bench at the top for the little ones, while parents stand below balancing them. These pre-made parade ladders can be bought at many local hardware stores and cost about $60. Ladders should not be hooked together, placed at intersections or against barricades, or left unattended - or the police will confiscate them.

The estimated size of the Mardi Gras crowd is based on the amount of trash generated. A good crowd is one that has produced 2,000 or more tons of refuse. Each parade is followed by the Sanitation Department with its street sweepers, water and brush trucks, and blowers. Watching them is almost as much fun as watching the parade!

Go back to the Mardi Gras page, or on to Colors.