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Arts & Culture

Mardi Gras Lubrication: The Greasing of the Poles

Greasing of the Poles, a popular Mardi Gras tradition, encourages upstanding New Orleans ladies to get their hands dirty in a very public display.

Believe it or not, in this particular case, “greasing the poles” is not a naughty euphemism. New Orleans is irreverent, but, c’mon! We do have standards! Having said that, this very public, annual Mardi Gras event does involve women, Vaseline, and poles. But fear not, everyone involved is fully clothed and relatively well-behaved for the execution of this utilitarian task that, in typical New Orleans fashion, has been elevated to a highly anticipated, celebratory spectacle.

A lovely lady tries her hand at greasing the poles at the Royal Sonesta for Mardi Gras. (Image courtesy of the Greasing the Poles Fun Club)

About 42 years ago, the Royal Sonesta Hotel, which enjoys a coveted Mardi Gras people-watching spot on Bourbon Street, began coating its balcony supports with petroleum jelly to keep revelers from shimmying their way up. Never a city to waste a perfectly good opportunity to squeeze every ounce of party potential out of any situation, the annual “Greasing of the Poles” was born.

Always scheduled for the Friday morning before Fat Tuesday, this year on Feb. 17, the Royal Sonesta hosts the extravaganza, which involves “Celebrity Greasers” who are judged on their application technique. These “celebrities” are not exotic dancers or women of questionable morals, but fine, upstanding members of the community, such as news anchors who are not afraid to do a little public lubrication. An equally esteemed panel of celebrity judges rates each performance a la Dancing with the Stars, and the audience gets to bestows a People’s Choice Award upon the winner.

The event is so popular, it even has its own club. The “Greasing the Poles Fun Club” is a group of Mardi Gras revelers who are a very visible presence every year, decked out in costumes they’ve designed based on an annual theme. According to their Facebook page, this year’s theme is “What’s Cooking?” Suggested ensembles include chef, sexy waitress, overdone spaghetti, room service, vegetables and singing waiter.

Throw in a second line, special guests, cocktails, and lots of spectators and media, and you’ve got yourself a party! Never a dull moment in this town – especially during Mardi Gras!

For more Mardi Gras information, refer to these posts on the best daytime parades, satirical parades, and Mardi Gras music.

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