PHOTO: The Royal Sonesta New Orleans Hotel is right in the middle of Mardi Gras celebrations. (Courtesy Flickr/Britt Reints)
WHY IT RATES: Royal Sonesta New Orleans puts on the annual Greasing of the Poles extravaganza and it is a must see. - Eric Bowman, TravelPulse Senior Editor
Royal Sonesta New Orleans will host its annual “Greasing of the Poles” at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 24. The public is invited to gather at the main entrance of the recently renovated hotel at 300 Bourbon Street to view the Mardi Gras spectacle. This year's theme, “Greasing Goes Gold,” is inspired by the fun excitement and unique legacy of all that’s special about Mardi Gras, including the brightest of the three colors of Carnival—purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. Special guests, event participants and the gathering crowd are all invited and encouraged to come decked out in shining and shimmering golden costumes or attire. This year, WGNO ABC 26’s Kenny Lopez will serve as master of ceremonies.
Now in its 47th year, “Greasing of the Poles” has earned its place in Crescent City history as a landmark experience, and is considered by many as the French Quarter’s official kickoff to Mardi Gras weekend. Royal Sonesta New Orleans, which recently completed a significant renovation of not only its guestrooms and suites, but also its Grand Ballroom space, originated the ritual of greasing the building’s support poles as a practical means to deter overzealous revelers from shimmying up to the coveted balcony space. Nearly five decades later, the practice has evolved into a star-studded and music-filled event, even spawning its own international fan club that faithfully hails from Switzerland each year to participate.
This year’s festivities will include appearances by the kings and royal characters from the Krewe of Zulu and the Krewe of NOMTOC, plus other special guests. Leroy Jones and the Original Hurricane Brass Band will entertain the revelers with performances of Carnival classics during the show, while New Orleans' original all-female marching group The Pussyfooters will deliver one of its signature special performances. Representatives from the New Orleans Saints including an NFL player, mascots Gumbo and Sir Saint and members of the Saintsations will also be in attendance.
Greasing the landmark hotel’s poles will be a cultural cross selection of contestants representing the distinctive character of New Orleans. Fleurty Girl founder and 2016 People’s Choice winning Greaser Lauren Leblanc Haydel, Chef and Partner of Coquette Kristen Essig, Hillary Lowry of the Oui Dats de la Nouvelle-Orléans Mardi Gras krewe, and choreographer for the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale, Tamika Jett, will go head to head for the namesake task, each vying for the first-place title based on the judging panel’s scores. Contestants will also have the chance to win the coveted “People’s Choice” award, based on crowd participation, response and applause.
Celebrity judges for this year’s event are NCIS New Orleans Producer Joseph Zolfo; renowned Cajun fiddle player, singer and actress Amanda Shaw; plus New Orleans’ premier burlesque dancer and producer of four New Orleans-based shows Trixie Minx, the 2016 1st place Greaser. Joining them will be Ignatius DeSandro, a Vietnam War Veteran representing the We Heart Veterans non-profit organization. As part of its corporate ‘Culture of Caring’, Royal Sonesta is proud to partner with We Heart Veterans to support its core mission of caring for aging veterans and their widows throughout the nation.
Greasing of the Poles is free and open to the public. For prime viewing, spectators should plan to arrive early.
WHO: Royal Sonesta New Orleans
WHAT: 47th Annual Greasing of the Poles
WHEN: Friday, Feb. 24, 10 a.m.
WHERE: 300 Bourbon Street
WHY: This is an ‘only in New Orleans’ experience not to be missed.
While visiting Royal Sonesta New Orleans, drop in PJ’s Coffee Café to indulge in the "Royal King Cake," a one-of-a-kind brown butter bourbon pecan praline king cake designed and baked by the hotel's new pastry chef Jacquelyn Lopez. King cakes on sale exclusively for Carnival season and are perfect to share at the office on Fridays, on the parade route or just to satisfy a sweet tooth.
SOURCE: A Royal Sonesta New Orleans press release.