Mardi Gras made easy: parade tracker apps take center stage

Be prepared for parade ups & downs this weekend with an app that tracks their exact locations. Photo by flickr user jerebu.

Standing on a Mardi Gras parade route with no parade in sight can be a frustrating experience. Especially if you’d like to run home to go to the bathroom but you don’t want to miss the parade. Or better yet, you don’t want to wander out to the route until you know it’s getting close.

Enter the miracle that is the “parade tracker” app. There are two apps to track parades currently available: the WDSU Parade Tracker created by Calliope Digital and the WWL-TV Experience Mardi Gras app by Zehnder Communications. Both apps are available in the iTunes app store and on the Android market.

Images of the WDSU Parade Tracker app from the iTunes app store.

I sat down briefly with local app developer Chris Van Buskirk of Calliope Digital to discuss the 2012 version of the WDSU Parade Tracker app. Calliope’s team for the app consisted of an iOS developer, an Android developer, a project manager and a designer.

This is the second year Calliope released the Parade Tracker app. What’s different this year? 

The parade tracker for iOS and web was developed last year. We added the Android version this year and updated the iOS version. We also added a feature which sniffs out schedule changes and will ask you to update. You may see that in action this weekend if the weather is bad.

How might the app be different next year if you modify or build it again?

Next year, I imagine we will be adding some more features. I can’t discuss them though 🙂

What differentiates the WDSU Parade Tracker app from the Zehnder app?

Zehnder chose to use on-board GPS. We chose a differing route. We built a tracking app, with the ability for communications as well as position. A couple of dots on a map can’t describe issues with the parade. For instance, Excaliber in Metairie broke down and updates were sent via the Parade Tracker. There was also an issue with King Arthur leaving late due to inspections by NOFD/NOPD.

Finally, the text/gps updates can be pushed to Twitter and Facebook. A tweet from the parade tracker will have GPS as well. We also have web based maps if you are at your desktop.

Do you think an app built on RTA bus data could work in a similar fashion?

Somewhat similar, but an RTA app will lack the communication. It would largely depend on the telemetry coming from the vehicles themselves. I can imagine a user selecting a line (or route) and the app delivering the closest vehicle’s position on that line. Perhaps an ETA as well based on the vehicle’s speed.


I used the WDSU Parade Tracker app for Android last weekend to track Sparta and Pegasus to great effect. Have you used either of the apps? How do you think they could improve in future iterations?