All the FRILLS upon it: New Orleans Easter parades

Break out the bonnets for three Easter parades

In your Easter bonnet,

with all the frills upon it …

As Irving Berlin’s ageless song starts to roll around in your head, you trade your winter clothes for your best-looking hat, look at the azaleas in bloom and realize: It’s time for the Easter parades!

Since New Orleans is the city that believes any excuse is a good one for a parade and a party, naturally there are several parades this Easter Sunday, and all include parties open to the public.

The first to roll is the Historic French Quarter Parade. This parade of elaborately decorated carriages and convertibles starts at Antoine’s Restaurant at 9:45 a.m. and travels down St. Louis, takes a left on Dauphine, takes a left on Iberville, takes a left on Bourbon takes a right on Toulouse, takes a right on Royal, takes a left on Iberville, takes a left on Chartres and proceeds to the Cathedral at Jackson Square for the 11 a.m. Mass.

Society ladies sporting gorgeous gowns and wearing elaborate hats and headdresses promenade in Jackson Square (get your cameras ready) before attending noon Mass at St. Louis Cathedral. After praying (probably for sunny spring weather), they climb back into their carriages to clop-clop back to Arnaud’s for a luncheon.

A particularly nice feature of this parade is that the parading women pass out adorable stuffed animals instead of throwing beads. An insider hint: “If you tell us you want a stuffed animal for your child or grandchild, we’ll hand it over right away,” one told me years ago.

Chris Owens Parade

The 30th annual Chris Owens Easter Parade also rolls Sunday. This celebration starts at the Astor Crowne Hotel Ballroom, 739 Canal St., at 11 a.m. with a continental breakfast, hat contest and entertainment. The parade begins at 1 p.m. at Canal and Bourbon streets and rolls through the French Quarter.

“Chris Owens is the owner of the Chris Owens Club on Bourbon Street and was the first woman to be inducted into the New Orleans Musical Legends Park,” said Kitsy Adams, Owens’ publicist of 25 years. “She’s a New Orleans icon, so parade-goers like to see her in person.”

Parade-goers enjoy seeing her in person because one of the biggest secrets of this parade has remained the same over the years: What will Chris Owens have on?

“Everyone wants to know what she’s wearing,” said Adams, “because it’s always very exotic, over-the-top and beautiful.”

In honor of its 30th anniversary, participants are coming from as far as Germany to ride, and Adams recommends finding a spot on the parade route early because the event can draw up to 100,000 people.

For information and a parade map, visit frenchquartereasterparade.com.

14th Gay Easter Parade

Also in the French Quarter on Sunday is the 14th annual Official Gay Easter Parade. It starts at 3 p.m. with a party at Michael’s on the Park, 834 N. Rampart St., rolls at 4 p.m. through the French Quarter with a post-parade party at the 700 Club, 700 Burgundy St. Grand Marshals XIV are Tommy Elias and Starr Daniels.

This year the colorful parade will bring to the streets some 30 carriages, wagons and trolleys, two bands, three walking groups and some 15 trucks and cars, showcasing the fashion and creativity of the entirepGLBT community with gentlemen in summer suits or tuxes with hats, and ladies in Easter dresses with hats.

Its route through the French Quarter begins at North Rampart and St. Ann streets, goes down St. Ann to Bourbon Street, left on Bourbon to Esplanade Avenue, right on Esplanade to Royal Street, right on Royal to St. Louis Street, right on St. Louis to N. Rampart, right on N. Rampart to Toulouse Street, right on Toulouse Street to Burgundy and left on Burgundy to St. Peter Street where it ends.

The parade benefits Food for Friends, a program of the NO/AIDS Task Force that has been supplying groceries and home-delivered meals for more than 15 years.

NO/AIDS Task Force has served more than 600 meals a week for the past 26 years, more than 300 clients receive pantry items each month and more than 42,000 meals are delivered. Over the past 11 years, the parade, through its sponsors, has generated $147,439 for its charities. Last year’s Gay Easter Parade’s $36,252 donation allowed 100 new pantry clients for the year.

“All our events are geared toward the goal of raising money for Food for Friends,” said Rip Naquin-Delain, the parade chairman. “This year’s goal is to raise $30,000, but I’m hoping for $40,000.” Naquin-Delain noted that last year’s goal was $25,000 but the organization raised $36,000.

For more information, visit gayeasterparade.com.