The Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar in Treme spilled out with Prince fans and balloons before a second line and block party April 25.
One by one, purple balloons emerged from the Ooh Poo Pah Doo's front door. Hands found the balloons' strings and sent them into the crowd, where fans mourned and celebrated the life of Prince, who died Thursday, April 21 at his Paisley Park estate in Minneapolis.
Fans brought framed photographs and album covers and unframed sleeves, or plastic guitars shaped like his signature symbol, their faces flecked with glitter, eyeliner and pencil mustaches. A second line parade honoring the late performer, set for April 25, attracted fans far and wide, young and old to the bar on Orleans Avenue, dotted with rolling bar carts with Cognac and coolers with bottled water and Bud Light.
Two white horses pulled a Charbonnet Funeral Home carriage escort for a purple-draped casket, ceremoniously paraded and returned to the bar at sunset, where an enormous block party filled the streets, There, the crowd roared through the chorus of "Purple Rain," the memorial's finale, while holding up cellphone lights and peace signs.
Lesley Wells dressed in her tape Mardi Gras costume: "I didn't have purple."
Thousands of fans filled both sides of the neutral ground on Orleans Avenue and jumped into the parade, supported by shimmering purple-outfitted Baby Dolls, members of the Prince of Wales Social Aid & Pleasure Club and a thundering brass band joined by countless percussion.
Fans dressed as Purple Rain
Kid lookalikes, carried Essence Festival memorabilia, or put together colorful Prince-inspired outfits with frilled shirts and loud pants and drawn-on mustaches. Lesley Wells dressed in her towering cassette tape Mardi Gras costume ("I didn't have purple"). One man dressed up suspiciously similar to Prince collaborator Morris Day. One woman called him Morris and he didn't flinch.
Dozens of couples wore matching memorial shirts (one couple, Reginald and Michelle, wore shirts reading "rest in paradise" and "always in our hearts" surrounding a picture of Prince in all white with angel wings). Lisa and her daughter Kiara also wore matching memorial shirts — Lisa remembered Prince's purple-covered Superdome performance at the 2014 Essence Festival, his last in New Orleans, as an unforgettable show. "He was one of my favorites," she said. "The whole stage was lit up."
Lisa, right, and Kiara, wearing matching memorial shirts.
Dancers hopped on utility boxes, roofs and porches as the parade made its way from Orleans Avenue to Ursulines Avenue, then up Claiborne Avenue and back to the bar. The parade reached the bar at sunset and disbanded inside. Hundreds of people remained on the streets, effectively shut down to traffic and soundtracked exclusively by Prince. DJ Captain Charles blasted songs from the sidewalk to the other side of the street and faded the chorus of "Purple Rain" to let the crowd take over. A man left the crowd in tears while others wiped a few from their eyes and embraced through the song's final wordless sing-along. There was a lightness in the crowd, a cathartic release and a place to mourn among friends and strangers.