2010 pole greasing champion Randi Rousseau will judge this years competition at the Royal Sonesta.
  • 2010 pole greasing champion Randi Rousseau will judge this year's competition at the Royal Sonesta.

It’s time to start working on your sniffles and sneezes so by Friday you can convincingly call in sick and head to the Royal Sonesta hotel (300 Bourbon St.) at 10 a.m. Friday, March 4, for the time-honored Carnival tradition of “greasing the poles” that support the hotel’s balconies so revelers can’t shimmy up them on Mardi Gras.

The practice started 41 years ago as a functional answer to a pesky problem, but has become a tradition Mardi Gras historian Arthur Hardy calls an “event not to be missed.” Over the years, greasing the poles with petroleum jelly has developed into a major event, attracting hundreds of spectators to watch a competition among local celebrities armed with petroleum jelly, a second-line parade, a toast to Zulu royalty and live music.

Celebrity greasers include WVUE Fox 8 meteorologist Nicondra Norwood, WDSU-TV reporter Siemny Chhuon, WGNO-TV reporter Chriss Knight, and WWL-TV reporter Jill Hezeau. Their techniques and greasing styles will be judged by Hardy, musician Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, and WDSU-TV anchor Randi Rousseau, who won the champion title in 2010. Spectators also get to vote on a “People’s Choice Award” winner. Masters of Ceremonies are Mix 92.3 radio personality Mike Theis and New Orleans Saints owner Rita Benson LeBlanc.

Trumpeter Leroy Jones and the Original Hurricane Brass Band will lead a second line parade through the Quarter, culminating at the hotel at 10 a.m. The event also includes an appearance by the New Orleans Saintsations cheerleaders, a performance by Johnson and a champaign toast with the Zulu king, queen and their court.

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