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Five things to know for Saturday’s Mardi Gras parade

Mardi Gras 2012
Provided by Clementines
Mardi Gras 2012

The 37th Annual Bud Light Grand Parade in Soulard is just around the corner. The Mardi Gras celebration will take off from Busch Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday, winding its way to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. The parade route is 1.6 miles long, and normally takes around two hours to complete.

Here are five things to know before you try to catch one of the estimated 17 million strings of beads thrown at the parade:

1. Wear something sports-related  

  • Taking place the day before Super Bowl Sunday, the parade’s theme is “all things sports.” Fittingly, former St. Louis Blues star Brett Hull is the parade’s grand marshal.
  • Mack Bradley, a spokesman for Mardi Gras Inc., said the theme was announced before the St. Louis Rams received permission from the National Football League to move to Los Angeles. He said he'll be curious to see how many krewes make changes to their floats to commemorate the event.

  2. A taxi, Uber or MetroLink is the easiest way to get to the parade

  • Parking and shuttles are also available for parade-goers. While the bulk of the parade takes place in the Soulard neighborhood, the area is closed to traffic and parking for people who do not live there. No parking areas are enforced.
  • Those who drive should know that the ramps at 3200 Broadway and 7th and Park off of Interstate 55 will close at 6 a.m., as will the eastbound 6th Street ramp from I-64. The Gravois-Russell exit from northbound I-55 closes at 1 p.m..
  • Two shuttles will be available. Both run all day and drop off in Soulard. A free shuttle will pick up at 2nd Street and Morgan near the Arch-Laclede's Landing MetroLink station. A shuttle from the Civic Center MetroLink station costs $6 round trip. More information about parking and shuttles, including maps, can be found at the parade’s website.
  • Because of construction, Metro is asking riders not to get off MetroLink trains at the Busch Stadium station. "There is limited pedestrian access to the station there,"  said Patti Beck, Metro's director of communications.

3. Use the porta-potties, and leave the bottles and cans at home.

  • There should be more than 1,000 portable bathrooms in the parade zone. "If you can't find one, you're not looking hard enough," said Bradley, the Mardi Gras Inc. spokesman. While it might be tempting to avoid the possible long lines, know that police plan to crack down on public urination.
  • Remember to leave all bottles, backpacks, cans, and coolers at home. They are prohibited and will be confiscated at checkpoints into the parade zone.
  • "Leave the guns at home," said St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson. "Do not bring your gun, do not leave it locked in the car. We’ve seen far too many times this year where criminals have broken into cars to steal guns."

4. Make the most of Saturday because there’s no Fat Tuesday parade this year.

  • Organizers scratched the Tuesday parade, citing difficulties in getting people out on a cold, winter weeknight.
  • Instead, an event called “Fat Bluesday” will take place Tuesday night at Scottrade Center when the Blues face the Winnipeg Jets. The event is to include “Mardi Gras themed games with great prizes, Mardi Gras style entertainment, food and drink,” according to its webpage.

5. You might be able to leave the winter hat and gloves at home.

  • Early forecasts are showing what is expected to be an unusually warm February day. As of Tuesday, the National Weather Services predicts, low winds, sunny skies, and a high of 51 degrees on Saturday. 

Rachel Lippmann contributed reporting to this story.

Follow Nathan on Twitter: @NateRub