A reveler reaches for a coconut during the Zulu Parade in New Orleans, Feb. 28, 2006.
A reveler reaches for a coconut during the Zulu Parade in New Orleans, Feb. 28, 2006. Getty Images
Audie Cornish, NPR
The Zulu coconut is the most prized throw during Mardi Gras, Gordon Cagnoletti says.
While I was working the parade crowd the other day, a man stopped me and asked about my accent. Being from Boston, I feared I'd dropped an "r" somewhere along the way in my interview. But no, he was also working the crowd on a mission of his own: dispensing his stash of Zulu coconuts.
As it turns out, I was speaking with not just a member of the famed Zulu Mardi Gras Krewe, but the district chief of the New Orleans Fire Department on his day off. Gordon Cagnoletti was walking up and down St. Charles Avenue in a gold and purple sweat suit, layers of beads around his neck and a bright smile on his face. This year would be the first time he would ride on a float in the Zulu parade and he was so excited he couldn't wait to give the coconuts out.
The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club is one of the oldest traditionally black krewes and certainly one of the most popular of all the organizations. Cagnoletti had decorated 100 coconuts for his first time riding in the parade, but other members are known to do upwards of 300 in their months-long preparation. NPR's News and Notes, did a report about how the krewe struggled with the decision to participate in this year's Mardi Gras.
Cagnoletti ended up giving me a coconut, but he also gave me something more valuable: an explanation of how he went about making it and his thoughts on Mardi Gras this year.