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HOT SPOTS: Tracking apps take guesswork out of Mardi Gras parades

WDSU Parade Tracker

By Renee Peck

NolaVie editor

For most of my thirty-odd years of Carnival celebrating. parade preparation approached a science. And the most adept parade-goers, I found, were not the experts on where and wear, but those who could time things right. You wanted to get to the neutral ground in time to get a good spot, but not so early that tedium sapped your enthusiasm.

A few years ago, Twitter started to change things -- follow the right people, and tweets could tweak your parade readiness.

Now there's something even better: computer and smartphone apps that track parade progress through GPS. Wow.

On Wednesday night, I downloaded WDSU's free Parade Tracker to my iPhone. I live about seven blocks from St. Charles Avenue. Close enough to be casual about parade progress, far enough away to worry about missing the action. The app first tracked my location, using my cell phone position (the blue dot), then posted the location of the head of Druids (the purple dot), both on a map that can zoom in or out.  

Druids at St. Charles and Napoleon. Making the turn. Parade paused now. Parade rolling again. I tracked Druids across Louisiana and to Pleasant, then hit the street. As I crossed Prytania and headed that last block toward St. Charles, I saw the ladder truck pass by. I watched as purple and blue dots drew ever closer ... until, suddenly, there I was, that blue dot. There Druids was, passing me by.

Timing is everything during Carnival season.

PARADE TRACKING SITES IN BRIEF: I found three. Here are some details.

WDSU Parade Tracker: free app; parade was a touch ahead of tracking (but only by a block or two, and it might have been that the tracker logs the first float, not the ladder truck). You can also track online.

WWL Parade Tracker: free app; this one looks cool, with a jester hat marking parade progress and the route outlined in purple. But you need the iPhone 4G to get it. I'm too low-tech, with my 3G. It's a smartphone app only; no tracking via computer.

Mardfi Gras Parade Tracker: I shelled out $4.99 for an app that promises more parades tracked than any other (the free apps don't track all parades). Graphics are top-notch, with route highlighted and parade front marked with a red diamond. Is it better than the free apps? I'll let you know. Tonight I'm going all out high-tech for Babylon, Chaos and Muses. With real-time tracking, I'll even know if I have time between parades to reload the cooler.

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]