Troops celebrate Mardi Gras in Baghdad
BAGHDAD, Iraq — They are about as far from New Orleans as they can get, and it sure wasn’t the Tuesday before Lent.
But that didn’t stop members of the 447th Air Expeditionary Group from holding a Mardi Gras celebration last Friday night at the Air Force’s Camp Sather facility at Baghdad International Airport.
The Krewe of Baghdad, an informal planning committee, made sure that this was as close as it could get to the real thing, complete with colorful costumes and floats, wooden and tin doubloons, and plenty of plastic beads.
Krewe president Staff Sgt. Jeff Kinder headed the committee.
“We feel we’re bringing a little taste of New Orleans here,” he said. Kinder is assigned to the 159th Civil Engineering Squadron at the city’s Joint Reserve Base.
About a dozen decorated floats from nearby Air Force, Army and Navy units drove around the camp, with riders throwing handfuls of beads, plastic cups and doubloons at the few hundred parade-watchers.
The New Orleans version of Mardi Gras, which means “fat Tuesday” in French, is known for its excesses — huge street parades, formal balls and plenty of food and alcohol.
Although the parade couldn’t be characterized as large, the ball was a come-as-you-are affair and there wasn’t any alcohol, attendees were still impressed.
“On a scale of one to 10, this is at least a seven,” said parade watcher Airman 1st Class Keona Harris, who experienced the real Mardi Gras in 1999.
Royal Air Force Flight Lt. Jayne Lindley wore about a dozen strings of beads around her neck.
“I’ll wear them all night and even get into bed with them,” she joked. “I think these people worked really hard to give … people a laugh.”
Kinder and his two-dozen or so planners contacted individuals and organizations in Louisiana for help.
“We probably had 100 boxes of beads, doubloons and cups,” he said.
Supplies came from individuals, schools, the Krewes of Orpheus and Hercules, the New Orleans Saints football team and even McIlhenny Co., the makers of Tabasco sauce.
Lacache Middle School in Chauvin, La., sent wooden doubloons stamped with “Krewe of Baghdad 2003.”
The groups also donated more than supplies. Adding monies collected from base personnel, the committee raised $5,000 for Iraqi childrens’ organizations.
Sent with love, dolls provide bit of mischief
No king and queen should be without proper scepters.
This is especially true for the king and queen — and Baghdaddy-o — of the first-ever Baghdad Mardi Gras.
With feathers for hair, buttons for eyes, skirts and necklaces of beads, and even a porcelain jester head, these brightly colored scepters were a perfect addition to Friday’s celebration.
Connie Born of Slidell, La., created and sent the Mardi Gras MisChief dolls.
“I was so honored to be asked to help out,” she wrote in an e-mail. “There could be no greater mission in life at this time than to bring smiles to … Baghdad!”
A newspaper article describes Born’s MisChief dolls as “what Barbie would look like after spending a week on Bourbon Street.” A closer look shows intricate detail and craftsmanship.
They were fitting details for Baghdad’s Mardi Gras, but they nearly didn’t make it.
Born said that she first tried to ship two boxes of dolls through UPS. The next day one of the boxes was returned damaged and opened.
A UPS employee told her the company doesn’t ship to APO addresses.
Two weeks later, the second box was returned, Born said, having “been to hell and back.”
She boxed the dolls again and gave them to the Gumbo Krewe, which was shipping food to Baghdad Mardi Gras organizer Staff Sgt. Jeff Kinder. The dolls made it to Baghdad in time for the celebration.
“[They’re] a true gift of love from us to our beloved troops," Born said. “I hope they will be the great little ambassadors that I intended them to be. If they bring smiles, they will have completed their mission.”
“This little thing added to the festivities,” said Kinder. “We had a lot of fun with all of them.”
— Jason Chudy