In New Orleans we hardly need an excuse to get together to eat, drink and make fais do do. Undeterred by sweltering heat, torrential downpours, hurricanes (or other acts of government failure), weekly festivals are curated around virtually every custom, historic episode and potentially edible swamp critter. But perhaps the single most compelling reason for New Orleanians to gather in large numbers is the opportunity to costume — especially if that costume is a woman’s dress worn by a man. The reason for this might be found in an attempt by a local writer to assign some weight to our predilection toward disguise, describing Mardi Gras ‘as the one time each year when we remove our masks.’ More to the point, it could be that ‘New Orleans men are simply less terrified of appearing publicly in a dress.’
That is as good a reason as any to explain why more than 10,000 runners, walkers and pub crawlers assembled last week for the 17th annual Red Dress Run, a fundraiser staged by New Orleans running club, The Hash House Harriers, to benefit 50 non-profit community organizations in the area. The Harriers, who refer to themselves as a ‘drinking club with a running problem,’ have created an event that attracts people from across the U.S., raising more than $200,000 this year to be distributed among the designated charities.
The day began at 9:30 a.m. and ended sometime in the evening. In between, men and women in crimson togs, shamelessly shimmy from beer to barbecue to music stage before eventually wobbling from bar to bar through the historic New Orleans neighborhoods of the Faubourg Marigny and French Quarter. As you might expect, by the time the formal run begins, there is (thankfully) very little actual running.
The route is a closely guarded secret, revealed on the day of the event, but even then, it is the wardrobes that matter most. So while costuming runs through the veins of any, um, red-blooded New Orleans man and everybody has a closet full of Mardi Gras fineries, for some reason size 14 red dresses are in short supply. It has become a common sight each summer to see a group of guys browsing the thrift store racks only to have their bromance devolve into a huff as two guys zero in on the same, perfect, backless number. The organizers have even put together a red dress swap because running in the same dress two years in a row, is of course, considered bad form.
While apparently there are red dress runs elsewhere and the origins can be traced to the West Coast, we’ve kind of licked this one, claimed it and made it our own. The Red Dress Run in New Orleans is by far the largest in the world. All of which reifies my theory on our town’s eccentricities—that more than anything else in the world, we simply hate to be bored.
This post was created with the kind support of Canon Powershot: