One of the highlight events of Mardi Gras 2009 kicked off in the heart of the French Quarter on Friday morning at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street with the 39th Annual "Greasing of the Poles."
The unique spectacle annually features surprise celebrities, great local music, and a whole lot of petroleum jelly. The Royal Sonesta Hotel originated the long-standing tradition of greasing the hotels support poles as a means to deter over-zealous revelers from shimmying up to the hotel's coveted balcony spaces above Bourbon Street. Over the years the event has grown into a grand New Orleans' style celebration, which attracts large crowds of spectators and media from across the globe.
Ms. Rita Benson LeBlanc, Executive Vice President of the New Orleans Saints and Ms. Dana Stumpf, CEO of New Orleans' professional soccer team, the Jesters, were on hand this morning and given the honors of greasing the poles. The festivities commenced when Alfred L. Groos, the General Manager of The Royal Sonesta, led a second-line parade of Saintsations, Jesters cheerleaders, Saints running back Lynell Hamilton and former Saints great wide Michael Lewis.
Both ladies delivered plenty of surprise throws that delighted the assembled crowd as fabled trumpeter Leroy Jones led his Original Hurricane Brass Band in celebration throughout the event.
"It was a once in a lifetime experience," said Benson LeBlanc. "I never imagined I would be part of such a venerable tradition of Mardi Gras."
Benson LeBlanc also stated that, "the local residents and the visitors that came out, dressed up in full Mardi Gras regalia, absolutely made this a great day. I was honored that the Royal Sonesta would approach us and ask us to be a part of this event. The hotel is beautiful and they do a great job annually and the participants, which this year included the Zulu King and Queen, all had a great time celebrating the holiday of New Orleans: Mardi Gras!"
Mike Theis, Morning Show Host for MIX 92.3 FM, served as the Master of Ceremonies after hosting his popular morning radio show live from the Royal Sonesta balcony. The 2009 Greasing of the Poles ceremony featured members of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club. Zulu's King Tyrone Mathieu and his Queen Sheila Mathieu appeared as honored guests for the special event, which marked Zulu's celebration of the 100th Anniversary of their organization.
"It's a lot of fun hosting this event each year," Groos said. "People love this event and it gets bigger and bigger each year and this year's turnout was once again fantastic. It shows how much interest and fun people have during Mardi Gras and it's wonderful to see people enjoying themselves."