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Silver Threads: Coming of age in the NOLA festival season

Oktoberfest continues this weekend at Deutsches Haus in Kenner (Photo: deutscheshaus.org)

Oktoberfest continues this weekend at Deutsches Haus in Kenner (Photo: deutscheshaus.org)

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

It was often said of one of my grand-daddies that if he saw a crowd milling in obvious excitement on a street corner, he’d turn and high-tail it the other way. That was hard on my grandmother — naturally a very curious soul — if she happened to be with him.

Me, I’ve inherited traits from both of them: I’d approach cautiously, skirt the edges of the gathering, and ask lots of questions. (As a fledgling news reporter I had to learn just to dive in, but that’s another story.)

Here in New Orleans, the buzz might accompany a passing parade or street festival. Do we have more festivals than any other city in the U.S.? I don’t know, but our family has been there at least for the inauguration of most of them.

Some have been annual favorites — Jazzfest, Oktoberfest at the old Deutsches Haus, Mardi Gras, of course — and others less frequently attended such as the Po-Boy Festival on Oak Street, the old Spring Fiesta parade in the Quarter, where eons ago I got asked for a date by a tourist who didn’t see my husband standing nearby. (“Those were the days, my friend/we thought they’d never end …”)

I once interviewed a woman who said she’d moved to New Orleans because “here you can dance in the streets when you’re 90 and nobody raises an eyebrow.” That’s undoubtedly true and an interesting reason for relocation, but she and I both were in our early 60s when she said it and had no idea of the complications of performing such a feat when closing in on 100 and perhaps using a walker.

There’s managing to find a place to park that’s close to where people are dancing, walking safely if it’s dark, comfortably if it’s too hot or too cold or your back hurts or the cortisone shot you got for a heel spur is wearing off. Then there’s the problem of scoping out nearby bathroom facilities and places to sit for a while if you get tired. And not being able to drink as much as you used to when you had to drive home. (“Those were the days my friend…” Well, enough of that; you get the point.)

All of this adds to the fact that spouse and I don’t do much festivalizing these days. But Oktoberfest and a chance to once again enjoy some excellent German cuisine and the sounds of a good ompah-pah band are too good to pass up.

So I’ve made a date with my husband to be at the Deutsches Haus, now in Rivertown in Kenner, at 1 p.m. on Saturday. We won’t be going that evening because although he does drive at night (ever heard the joke about the octogenarian who was enamored of a new girlfriend because “she drives at night”?) we prefer not to except on short hops.

It’s a very long shot that we’ll run into the woman who wants to dance in the streets when she’s 90, or a young doctor I met recently. He told me that he hopes to stay here in New Orleans when his fellowship is over because “the locals walk around in costumes all the time. I like that; I like to wear costumes.”

I think that if he lives here long enough he’s got it made. Surely you can wear a costume even in a nursing home if you like.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]