Isaac ‘Mr Ike’ Edwards Jr, died Wednesday at Heritage Manor nursing home in Houma, where he lived since Hurricane Katrina destroyed his New Orleans home. Edwards was the last link to an earlier time in Mardi Gras Indian history. Back then, Indians had to save every penny and nickel to assemble their suits, dying discarded turkey feathers and salvaging beads off old ball gowns.
After earning early awards from New Orleans own Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame, Edward continued to earn praise for his artwork. A few years ago, Edward and Herreast Harrison, Cherice Harrison-Nelson’s mother (a close friend of Edward), received a commission from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee to create a butterfly apron that became part of the Museum’s permanent collection.
Big Chief Edward in 1952
Edward was lucid right until he passed, and one point he made regularly was the Indian culture he grew up with was not violent. This flies in the face of conventional Mardi Gras Indian history, according the late Larry Bannock, Big Chief of the Golden Star Hunters, I’m gonna mask that morning if it costs me my life. That morning you pray and ask God to watch over you, cause everybody is bucking for number one.
After joining the Army Air Corps and the 92nd Infantry Division during the WWII, Edward started working as a longshoreman, which he kept for 38 years. He retired from costuming in 1952. However, after befriending Harrison-Nelson, the daughter of his long time friend Big Chief Donald Harrison Sr, he started sewing once more After being invited by Roselyn Smith, the principal of Oretha Castle Haley Elementary School and Harrison-Nelson, Edward started teaching the Indian traditions to a younger generation and helping to make butterfly patches and suits for the Young Guardian of the Flame.
Working with students rejuvenated Edward. I want to be remembered as a great man who loved children, he said. Up until a month before his demise, Edwards continued to sew, still able to thread a needle without the aid of glasses in spite of his advanced age.
Last month during his hospitalization, he instructed many of New Orleans big chiefs about his funeral. Edward asked Roselyn Smith to make chocolate cake for funeral attendees. He created his own list of speakers for his funeral. He asked that the tune Indian Red be sung during his service and again when the procession was on the street. He wanted lots of Indians and a lot of dancing.
Here comes NOLAier Than Thou, the Krewe of Chewbaccus own shoebox parade at 7 pm on May 4 2016 in the Bywater/Marigny, the stomping grounds of New Orleans only annual shoebox parade, ‘tit Rex. Generally speaking, copying the schickt of another Mardi Gras parading krewe in your own parade, in their own backyard, is verboten. It’s seriously messing with the juju of a parade, their raison d’etre.
No one else throws decorated coconuts, purses, or shoes during the entire New Orleans Mardi Gras parading season besides the originating krewes. That’s the worst thing a krewe can do to another, so it’s throw down time.
Why is the miniaturized parade scheduled for May 4? It’s an obvious Star Wars pun, may the fourth be with you. Chewbaccus refers to their parade as Shoeboxus, another pun on their idol, Chewbacca, a major hero from the Star Wars saga.
You have to hand it to Chewbacchus, they are hitting back hard the only way they know how, parade-style.
For decades, New Orleans school children have made shoebox floats for miniature parades.
Chewbacchus Captain Ryan Ballard admits that the idea for Chewbacchus’ shoebox parade hatched during a social media feud with ‘tit Rex. Their route has shifted. It now begins and ends at the Faubourg Marigny location of Dat Dog sausage restaurant, and Chewbacchus’ brand new Temple of the Sacred Wookie in the upstairs dining area.
Dat Dog as graciously agreed to donate a portion of sales during the Chewbacchus parade to the STOMP troopers, a program that assists children afflicted with autism to march in their Mardi Gras parade annually. This is an excellent benefit combined with a parade. What could be better than that in the City That Care Forgot, New Orleans?
It was fabulous, darling, just fabulous. That’s how I would sum up the 2017 season. It was a warm Carnival , always preferable to a cold or wet one. When Fat Tuesday falls in late February, like it did this year, warm weather is practically expected. I’ve always loved Carnival since coming to New Orleans, it has always been my favorite holiday. I alway costume on Fat Tuesday in the colors of Carnival; purple, green, and gold. It’s a good look for me. Zulu always responds to a good costume; REX doesn’t if the costume mimics their look, which I do. I still do well at Rex, as I’m an enthusiastic parade goer and I’ve always reported positively and honestly about Rex on this blog, so karma is with me during their parade.
I’m in one of the earliest parades, KdV, Krewe du Vieux. It’s the parade most like parades from 100 years ago, which is why I take part. Participating in a parade remains one of the greatest experiences a New Orleanian can experience, and shouldn’t be missed. Every time a parade participant meets the eyes of a parade goer asking for a throw, a tiny piece of energy is transferred from parade watcher to parade participant. Over the course of an entire parade, the energy addition for the parade participant is slight but palpable. This boost lasts a day or two.
Handing out throws is the most elegant and fun micro moment repeated throughout the parade. The sheer joy of connecting with a parade goer is really big. Again, when, the parade is over, a parade participant feels the joy of mass giving on a repetitive level over a couple of hours. It’s a very happy effect.
Food wise, Carnival 2017 was a success. We finished up at Theo’s Pizza, who make a mean pie. It was delicious, and the wait wasn’t that long for Fat Tuesday. For the final 5 days of Carnival, I cooked macaroni and beef and made my wonderful sausage and chicken gumbo. That carried us through the main Carnival weekend with great style and elan. We ate our share of King Cakes and found Gracious King Cakes from the bakery to be stellar but when bought from Whole Foods, had aged considerably and the filling dried up.
Company was stellar. Over Carnival, alcohol flows freely, making parades in general more fun. I was with my girlfriend Sue and my good friend Billy and his friends. We drank every few days and good times ensued with or without booze. We all love the parades, with their bright lights, animals, freshness, music, spectacle, beauty and excitement.
I followed my usual plan, catching Zulu and Rex before hitting the French Quarter. Zulu didn’t disappoint. I saw Mayor Landrieu on horseback with his official posse. He looked happy, riding his horse in unison with other dignitaries and NOPD. I caught them at Jackson and Dryades, a traditional spot for me. Bought a drink at a local bar right before the parade and over the next hour I caught 5 coconuts. It was wild and a lot of fun. Zulu looked fierce in the brilliant sunlight. I missed my friend but really had a good time at Zulu 2017.
It was on to Rex around 9:30 by foot, and it takes about 20 minutes to walk to Harmony Street. The sights and sounds around me were intensifying as the day wore on. All the revelers on St. Charles, the crowds parked for Rex and the trucks to follow, it was a sight to behold. There really isn’t anything remotely similar to St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras Day. It’s a one of a kind event on a one of kind day.
The crowd around Zulu on Jackson, for Rex on St. Charles and Harmony, and walking toward home in Mid City was cordial and hospitable. New Orleanians celebrate Mardi Gras in their own ways. Some on the parade route, some in the street, some at home with friends and family. I passed many families in the neighborhood around Zulu and Rex BBQing
I was out on Jackson Avenue by 7:30 am on Fat Tuesday. I walked from Claiborne where I was dropped off to Dryades, where I was supposed to meet a friend who didn’t make it because he drank too much on Lundi Gras. Zulu was on time around 8 am and reached me by 8:30 on Jackson and Daneel. I had 5 coconuts by 9 am, and was walking to Rex at Harmony and St. Charles at 9:30. My good friend Billy Bonsack lives a block off St. Charles on Prytania and Harmony. I see a lot of parades during the season since Billy’s house is a block off the St. Charles route. Super convenient and makes parading a lot more comfortable.
It was a really warm Carnival season, and Mardi Gras day didn’t fail us. It was 70+ degrees when I hit the streets yesterday, and it only got warmer. I was dressed in a warm weather version of my purple, green and gold outfit, but I was still warm throughout the day.
Even though my basic Fat Tuesday routine doesn’t change much, there are always new wrinkles and fresh sights and sounds that can’t be missed. I started the season marching in the Krewe du Vieux’s Krewe of Underwear, marching through the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny. This year’s march was especially fun. I recommend getting involved in parading for Carnival if you never have. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss.
I wear a purple, green and gold outfit, and Zulu always responds to people who have nice costumes. I don’t get any coconuts from the first few floats but after a while, I do real well. They respond very well to my purple, green and gold costume, and especially my very fancy headdress, worn for the first time this year. I had to expand or my girlfriend Sue did, the headdress, which originally was a little too small. Here I am on Jackson Avenue waiting for Zulu. Zulu is one of the great parades. It’s very unique from beginning to end, and features a most unusual throw, the Zulu Coconut.
I’ll be adding photos of my 5 coconuts later today when I pick them up from my friend’s house on Prytania. I’ve got several bags of throws, garnered over the entire parade season.
Beautifully Costumed Mardi Gras Indian
As I was walking from Zulu to Rex, I passed this gang of unbelievably colorful and decorative Mardi Gras Indians. The beauty and majesty of their single colored feather outfits is a marvel to behold. My good friend June Victory of June Victory and the Bayou Renegades helped me find them. They remain among the most beautiful sights on a Mardi Gras Day.
Mardi Gras Indians on a Mardi Gras Day
After REX I started heading home with another friend, Slogan. He walked with me through Central City and saw the Indian gang. He was very impressed, as I was. We finally split up after a couple of miles of walking, and eventually Sue picked me up at Galvez and Canal after hitting a lot of traffic on Broad due to the Zulu floats heading to the Zulu buildings on Broad.
For the last few years, my Fat Tuesday routine has changed a bit. Now I go out to eat in the late afternoon. Last year it was Mandina’s. This year is was pizza and beer (for girlfriend Sue) at Theo’s on North Carrollton.
I take a fair amount of photos for my blog, almost 100% are with my smart phone. These mostly were taken the last weekend of the 2017 Carnival season.