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Shiny Happy People Hoarding Beads

Naveen Sultan about over 1 year ago

Shiny Happy People Hoarding Beads

By Amy Beeman

We like shiny things. As much as humanity has accomplished, and with all our life- changing technologies, some things about the human experience remain the same. Like the fact that we are attracted to shiny objects, just like babies, or fish.

On the one hand, this fact could be disconcerting. It's so simplistic and we like to think of ourselves as evolved. On the other hand, it's nice to enjoy the simple things, even if they lack a rational basis. Case in point: Gasparilla beads.

What is it about those damn beads that incites thousands of adults to clamor and beg for strands of cheap plastic made in China? It's not like we don't already have enough Chinese plastic in our lives. But they're shiny. And if we're at a Gasparilla parade we're likely consuming alcohol, so rubbing armpits with a bunch of other drunken beggars seems like a perfectly wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Plus we get to collect shiny and colorful bits of petroleum by-products and hang them around our necks. If we sweat, some of the possibly lead-based paint may even die our skin.

According to a study by and Verdigras, a non-profit group in New Orleans looking to create a more eco-friendly Mardi Gras, our coveted beads are created using a toxic cocktail of recycled plastics. And while I'm being a Debbie Downer, those shiny toxic beads are mostly made by very young Chinese women living and working in dismal conditions for little pay, working up to 14 hours a day, as can be seen in the documentary Mardi Gras: Made in China.

Not to take all of the fun out of it, because for some reason watching the Gasparilla Parade and snatching shimmering costume jewelry out of the air is just plain fun, despite its pointlessness. Though, it could be argued that FUN is the point. Besides, we're used to not thinking too much about where things come from, or where they'll end up. We're busy getting free stuff!

Not that they are free, but Krewe members and local businesses pay for them and generously give them to us. The only thing people like as much as shiny things are free things. Though, sometimes a small barter may take place. Like when a gal trades a peek at her cans for a choice strand of beads. Sometimes "free" is a relative term. But hey, as long as everyone is happy and having a good time. Besides, what's a little dignity compared to possessing one of those hard to come by plastic necklaces, like the long strand of big shiny pearl ones. They're both shiny and as big as gum balls. A must have.

And speaking of the collection...what to do with all our pretty shiny beads once we get home. Stick them in a box, decorate, donate, or throw them away? A visit to will show a myriad of art project ideas, from chandeliers to candle holders, none of which will ever come to fruition for most of us. More likely we will let them linger for a while, then get tired of looking at them, shiny or not, and realize that many of them are in knots and toss them in the trash, because unfortunately they are not recyclable, only re-usable.

It doesn't have to be that way though. There are lots of things we can do with our beads besides just throwing them away. Listed below are some ideas of what to do with our hard-earned shiny plastic beaded necklaces. Because after all, we're going to get a bunch more next year, and they were free (save the aforementioned dignity, in some cases) so lets share our bounty with those who have less access to shiny things. Because there are many perceived differences among us, but make no mistake, we all like shiny things.

Donate to thrift stores

Find a local organization that re-uses donated beads in other parades

Have a pirate theme party and give them to the guests

Donate to a school or senior center for crafting

Grab a glue-gun and get crafty your-own self

Use for costumes

Use to decorate gifts

Make a garland for a Christmas tree

Make a wreath

Create ornaments

Put them in a clear glass bowl or vase, sit back, and enjoy their shiny-ness

Happy Gasparilla!

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"Find a local organization that re-uses donated beads in other parades" If this is a thing, can you recommend someone?

Ditto Ben's question. I've searched for a local organization like this online a few times and have had no luck.

Ben and Lisa, I searched and searched and could not find any such organizations that are currently accepting beads except for a few in New Orleans. I wrote that part in thinking maybe someone else would search and have more luck than I did. A Krewe having to do with Macdill AFB was collecting them, but donation cut-off was Jan. 10. Here's the link to what I found, it could be a starting point.