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New Orleans Threw a Birthday Parade for the Late Betty White. And You Need to See the Photos

There were brass bands, colorful costumes, and plenty of dogs to celebrate the legacy of this iconic Golden Girl.

Betty White died on New Year’s Eve of 2021, just weeks shy of what would have been her 100th Birthday on January 17, 2022. As America mourned the loss of their favorite Golden Girl and a comedic legend who starred in dozens of memorable roles, the city of New Orleans began planning. The idea, crafted by Santa T. Claus (yes, that’s his legal name) and Carl Mack of Carl Mack Presents, was to host a celebration of her life––in true New Orleans’ style.

The massive Betty White Parade marched on January 16 through the heart of the French Quarter, featuring all the trappings—from The Bourbon Street Brass Band to citizens twirling parasols. Many donned Betty White wigs and tropical shirts, while others held hand-painted signs of their favorite comedian’s quotes. Dogs were plentiful, and once the organizers covered the parade’s cost, all the proceeds were given to the locally run Villalobos Rescue Center for animals in need. Betty White was a massive animal lover who personally funded the relocation of several zoo animals before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005 in the city.

The parade was both whimsical and meaningful––something fans would say was emblematic of White’s own life––and the final moments certainly brought a tear or two. As the crowd huddled against the cold in Jackson Square, they sent some love up to Betty White with a moving chorus of I’ll Fly Away. Here, we bring you a few outtakes of a very fitting tribute to an incredible star.

A big fan of simply having a great time, White inspired others around her to do the same in her comedy and her iconic roles, like Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. Fans created signs of their favorite White quotes, complete with photos.

To honor her 100th Birthday, the hashtag #bettywhiteschallenge was created and quickly began to trend on social media. The challenge was to support an animal charity in honor of her milestone age. For the New Orleans parade, organizers gathered donations to cover the cost of security escorts and city street cleaning. All additional donations were then given to the local animal organization, Villalobos Rescue Center. Dogs, naturally, felt the need to show up for Betty White, too.

The parade began at Canal Street and proceeded down Bourbon, turning right at St. Ann to make its way to Jackson Square. Like the one pictured, street performers lined up every few blocks to update the gathering spectators and sing a few show tunes for Betty White.

You can’t call it a New Orleans send-off without the proper soundtrack. The Bourbon Street Brass Band led the march.

What started as a dark and overcast morning quickly turned into a blue-sky and stunner of an afternoon. The parade began at 4 p.m., with attendees loudly singing happy birthday to Betty White, followed by several rounds of Thank You for Being a Friend, the theme song of The Golden Girls.

It was a family affair for many.

With mere weeks before Mardi Gras gets rolling, stylish, fun costumes were plentiful.

Beneath the Spanish filigree of the wrought-iron balconies in the French Quarter, the parade was one of the first since the pandemic shut down the city.

The Betty White parade was organized by Santa T Claus––a local resident and fundraiser, who had a real soft spot for her. Fun Fact: he’s also the only human in America to legally change his name to that. He is shown here, with co-host Carl Mack of Carl Mack Presents.

Paying tribute to Betty White, many tourists stopped by costume shops and got in on the action, too. So far, more than $4,000 has been raised in donations for the Villalobos Rescue Center in New Orleans.

A few pedicabs brought up the rear at the end of the parade, with the organizers waving to those on the sidewalks. The parade culminated in Jackson Square with a tearful I’ll Fly Away, sung up to the skies. If you’d like to support animals in honor of Betty White’s 100th Birthday, you can donate to this link, which will remain live for a few more days.