Mardi Gras throws: Catch of the day may be plush or blink

Ever contemplated what Mardi Gras would be like without parades? How about picturing a parade without bands? It's just not the same.

Carnival in New Orleans seems like a gumbo that blends numerous special traditions and brings them to a rolling boil in a span of a couple of weeks. Floats and flambeaux, balls and bands, masked horsemen and celebrity riders, they all play an essential role in our Carnival experience.

Just as important as floats, bands and flambeaux, Carnival could not be Carnival without throws.

Throws have a special ability to make parade-goers of all ages feel good. Look around this Carnival season and see for yourself - a child's face lighting up when handed a stuffed animal, a young woman grinning when a young man tosses her a special strand of beads, a biker guy laughing when a female rider lands a throw in the helmet hanging from his hand. Catching something in mid-air just makes anyone feel good.

This Carnival season is no different from recent ones, nearly all krewes have new throws they will introduce or unique throws available only to them. They'll range from the traditional to the outrageous.

Fifty years ago the Krewe of Rex came up with the concept of throwing doubloons from floats. This year the krewe will celebrate the anniversary of the Carnival doubloon with a 10-gauge, gold adonized aluminum commemorative doubloon. (If you don't catch one, you can always buy one online with proceeds going to Rex's Pro Bono Publico Foundation, which contributes to education and other causes essential to New Orleans.)

This list of special or new throws this year ranges from the techy (flashing, fiber-optic "gummy" beads being thrown by Hermes and Pygmalion, miniature portable radios from the Krewe of Muses) to outrageous (3D cups beads to be thrown by Krewe D'Etat and FEMA trailer beads from the Knights of Nemesis).

The list of fun throws promised this season is endless: fiber-optic wands (Excalibur), plush swords (Sparta), plush fleur de lis spirit sticks (Rhea), plush spears (Cleopatra), T-shirts (Nemesis), wooden nickles (Alla), flasks (Dionysus) and much more! And, don't forget the throws that have always made us feel extra special - the Zulu coconut and the Muses glitter shoe!

May you catch your heart's desire during Carnival!