Featured Image Credit: Josh Brasted, 2022 Greasing of the Poles at The Royal Sonesta
Only in New Orleans
Most first-time Mardi Gras visitors don’t realize how many events happen around town over the course of the Carnival season, and parades are just the beginning! The Big Easy celebrates its favorite holiday with so many different rituals, traditions, and events going on, that it simply wouldn’t be possible to list them all in one place. There is so much happening around this Mardi Gras season that preparing for all of the events becomes a ritual in and of itself. This preparation process provides the background for one of the French Quarter’s signature New Orleans attractions, which is known as the Greasing of the Poles.
What is the Greasing of the Poles?
The 53rd Annual Greasing of the Poles takes place at the historic Royal Sonesta New Orleans, a major hotel on Bourbon Street. This “only in New Orleans” experience is a hilarious illustration of the local attitude towards Mardi Gras revelry. Everyone knows that the party on Bourbon Street is as wild as it gets on Mardi Gras Day. It is also well known that the French Quarter’s wrought iron balconies are a prized position for throwing beads and watching the party on the streets below. These balcony spots are so coveted, in fact, that local business owners eventually began to feel concerned about how far someone might go to obtain one.
In the mid-20th century, Bourbon Street was increasing in popularity with revelers looking to experience Mardi Gras. The Royal Sonesta in particular became an iconic destination and to keep people from scaling up their balconies to get a better view of the festivities below, they ceremonially coated their support poles in grease. This unlikely preventative measure quickly took on a symbolic meaning for many as the greased poles represented how the enthusiasm of the street couldn’t be contained. It has since become a local ceremony to oil their poles before Fat Tuesday, marking both a practical context and a poetic one which foreshadows the overflow of joy that is yet to come.
Today, the Greasing of the Poles is broadly embraced as an annual Carnival rite for the entire French Quarter neighborhood and its many visitors. This New Orleans attraction features live music and a host of appearances by Carnival royalty, media personalities, and community leaders. Since this is New Orleans, even practical measures become performance art – contestants known as “greasers” are tasked not only with lubricating the poles but providing entertainment for a panel of judges as they do so.
Details & Schedule for the 53rd Annual Greasing of the Poles
On Friday, February 17th, 2023, the Royal Sonesta New Orleans located at 300 Bourbon Street is ready to host the annual Greasing of the Poles. Starting at 10 AM, crowds will start to gather in anticipation for what makes this event so unique. This is a free event for all to attend; however, those hoping for the best view should come early as space has been known to fill quickly. Now in its 53rd year, this popular New Orleans tradition gives pleasure to announce Bryan Batt as master of ceremonies – a well-recognized actor, author and tastemaker who has brought smiles and creativity to many. Come join in at this classic event and make memories that will last a lifetime!
Learn More About the French Quarter with New Orleans Tours
The French Quarter is full of intriguing rituals that reveal so much about the culture and history of New Orleans. From the chaotic fun of Mardi Gras to the exciting Greasing of the Poles, New Orleans has something for everyone to enjoy! Fortunately, if you’re curious about why these unique rituals exist and how the city came to be, there’s no better way to learn than through a French Quarter walking tour. On a New Orleans walking tour, you can get up close with the city’s neighborhoods, history, culture and more in an exciting and immersive experience. You will gain a much better understanding as to why even major hotel chains embrace traditions like the Greasing of the Poles during Mardi Gras season. Don’t miss out on this incredible journey – book your French Quarter walking tour today!