I love parades. They're such a vibrant celebration of urban life--streets are closed off to cars and reserved for pedestrians, an odd mix of people gather in wait, there is music, bright colors, costumes, vendors hawking cheap crap to the crowds, and usually, usually, there's some sort of culturally significant aspect--you know, gay rights, Chinese new year, Thanksgiving...
...and then there was the Paris Carnevale parade.
As I understand it, Carnevale is a festival loosely based on getting all the celebration out of your system before lent, so it's already a bit vague, but at least other countries seem to have done a better job of giving it some sort of defining theme. Italy goes for a class-obscuring obsession with ornate masks, New Orleans goes for the three Bs (beads, blues, and boobs), and Brazil goes for, well, feathers and nudity (as appreciated in a decidedly politically incorrect manner by a very young Ah-nold in this priceless video posing as a legitimate travelogue). Even the South of France, where I once lived, has its act together--Nice picks a yearly theme (second, of course, to its unofficial theme of small children spraying silly string in everyone's hair for a solid month), and the nearby Menton does a Rosebowl-style tribute to Citrus fruits by constructing sculptures, floats, and even walk-through architectural structures from its bountiful harvests.
In comparison, Paris' take on Carnevale was an utterly random, poorly-publicized, fully-clothed and last-minute affair. It still afforded a jolly atmosphere and a few good photos though, as well as a chance to check out the quartier of République, which I seldom visit.
My favorite cheap vendor item of the day was this Spiderman balloon, with either a poorly- or brilliantly- chosen location for its inflation tab (hey, at least they don't inflate via mouth like a normal balloon):
Next up on the random list, this pants-less bunny luchadora, who was protesting in support of some indecipherable cause that apparently necessitated the wearing of a golden thong. I'll keep this PG and only show the front, cloaked view:
I couldn't really tell if the people in the parade were some kind of organized group or just random bystanders that happened to walk in the same direction as the floats. Some of them managed to be color-coordinated, but never with any kind of identifying markings:
I take it back, there was one unifying theme: noise. Everyone had boomboxes, marching bands, whistles, bells, symbols, drums, party blowers, maracas...anything would do, the louder the better. This Dr. Seuss-esque float was covered in noisy things (and had its own entourage of noise-making people):
Even more Dr. Seuss-inspired noise-makers. Don't be fooled, this isn't a full marching band, it's just a bunch of people looking like muppets carrying drums:
As is par for the course in France, there were also a lot of parade participators carrying and drinking alcohol:
A troop of mines in plaid, on stilts:
The highlight of the parade was the giant puppets, which seemed to represent different traditional roles from French history (knight, baker, farmer, nobleman)...
And just when I had thought I had detected a puppet pattern, out came the random, styrofoam-limbed dancing puppets.
So I just rolled with it. Vive la Carnevale!