PHOTOS: Beads and bands at the New Orleans Thanksgiving Parade

New York may host the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but New Orleans has something better: the Bayou Classic.

This New Orleans Thanksgiving parade features lively bands, dancers and a seemingly unlimited supply of plastic beads. We enjoyed watching this year’s procession on a bright and sunny day in the French Quarter, with temperatures hitting the high 70s. It was a stark contrast to the televised Macy’s parade in Manhattan, with its winter coat-clad spectators.

If you are in New Orleans for the Thanksgiving holiday next year, don’t miss this lively and free event!

>> Scroll down for photos of the 2012 Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Parade.

Turkey Day, New Orleans style! @ Bayou Classic Parade

We haven’t experienced Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but the Bayou Classic seems like a G-rated (but equally upbeat) version of the hedonistic festival.

GSU Cheerleaders at New Orleans Thanksgiving Parade

Middle school, high school and college marching bands strutted down Decatur Street in a twirl of pom poms and batons.

Dogs really are chick magnets! New Orleans Thanksgiving Parade

Spectators waved and cheered at floats, hoping to be thrown beaded necklaces. We had about 15 beads each by the end of the parade; even the dogs were wearing them.

Even dogs want beads in New Orleans! @ Bayou Classic Parade

It’s hard to top the fashion sense of New York City pooches, but this local dog came close!

Dancer on stilts at New Orleans Thanksgiving Parade

The parade attracted a diverse group of performers, including this dancer on stilts.

Kids in a bead frenzy at the New Orleans Thanksgiving parade

The quest for beads drove young spectators into a frenzy. An elementary school boy standing next to us lunged every time beads were thrown, even pushing aside another child to score more of the plastic jewelry. I fell prey to bead hysteria too; after missing my first throw, I looked so sad that another spectator gave me a string of his beads!

Girl with handful of beads at New Orleans Thanksgiving Parade

The bead race pitted sister against brother, as some families saw an unequal distribution of the jewels.

Happy Thanksgiving from New Orleans! @ Bayou Classic Parade

The marching bands and dancers wore impressive costumes, ranging from traditional band gear to golden helmets and caps with faux mowhawks.

What’s your favorite New Orleans attraction?

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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.