Little Known Mardi Gras Facts!!0
1. Floats mounted on St. Charles Avenue streetcars? The 1900 Nereus parade tried the idea, but the experience was deemed a failure and the club gave up parading soon after. They still hold a yearly ball, however. The Phunny Phorty Phellows decorate a streetcar for their Twelfth Night ride each year, but they don’t decorate the car exterior much, and they don’t mount a float onto a streetcar.
2. Many krewes rent their floats, signing three to five year contacts with the float builder.
3. Not all doubloons are made from aluminum. Many krewes mint fancier ones out of more expensive metals -silver, gold, copper, brass, etc.- that are sometimes designed and painted in Europe. These doubloons are kept by the krewe members or given as krewe favors or gifts.
4. Early New Orleans parades (1860s) were built partially in Paris and finished in New Orleans. The first parade constructed entirely in New Orleans was Comus 1873, entitled Missing Links to Darwin’s Origin of the Species, built by George Soulé. The Missing Links parade was an important event in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras history, becoming one of the first major parades to use satire and political commentary. Many of the images depict figures related to the Civil War and Reconstruction, such as Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Butler, and Louisiana Governor Henry Warmoth. Also depicted are notable figures such as Charles Darwin, and Algernon Badger (head of the despised Metropolitan Police).
5. The first recorded throw was in 1871; a Twelfth Night Reveler, masked as Santa Claus, tossed small gifts to the parade crowd.
6. How much of a king is Rex, King of Carnival? In 1950, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor attended the Rex ball and found themselves face to face to face with the pretend only royalty, the King and Queen of Rex. Guess which couple did the bowing? The gracious Windsors!
7. How is the date for Mardi Gras determined? This year, the date is February 12, but any Tuesday from February 3 to March 9 could be the one. The rule is: Mardi Gras is always 46 days before Easter, which is always the first Sunday after the full moon following the Spring Equinox. When is the Spring Equinox? It’s the day when the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator, making day and night all over the earth the same length. Since this date shifts, Easter changes, which is why the date of Mardi Gras is moveable.
8. 1899 was the year of the Big Snow. There were big chunks of ice in the Mississippi River during the final weekend before Fat Tuesday.
Phunny Phorty Phellows Ride Tonight!!2
It’s Twelfth Night (Jan.6), the formal start of the 2013 Carnival Season! I hope that excites you, because it excites me! It is a short season this year, as Fat Tuesday is Feb.12. As of today, there are 37 days to Fat Tuesday!! Plus, the Super Bowl will be played in New Orleans on Feb.3. As I’ve written before, this means the parades will be split into two sections, with the nine day Super Bowl break occurring in the middle.
Twelfth Night is the start of the King Cake season, though the grocery stores put them out around New Years Day.
YUM!! There are a million varieties of King Cakes today, we live in the true renaissance era of King Cakes. Here’s a fancy King Cake recipe from star chef Emeril Lagasse. When I first moved to New Orleans in the mid 1970s, the only type of King Cake was plain ones. Then McKenzie’s Bakeries, a local chain, produced the first filled King Cakes. Now, you can find almost any flavor possible. McKenzie’s is long gone, but their unique innovation lives on and on!
As for the PPP, or Phunny Phorty Phellows, their ride down St. Charles Avenue on a St.Charles Avenue Street Car occurs tonight.
From the PPP website: The modern organization was revived in 1981 by a small group of friends and Mardi Gras enthusiasts. It has continued without interruption to the present day. The PPP paraded with the Krewe of Clones from 1981 until 1986. In 1982 we also began a tradition of riding the streetcar line (in a streetcar) and proclaiming the arrival of the Carnival season on Twelfth Night. That is the night when the new Boss and Queen are chosen by the traditional King Cake method as well as the occasion of the sumptuous Coronation Ball. A “Carnival Countdown” take place right before the Phellows board the streetcar.
The Storyville Stompers is the official band for the Streetcar Ride and Benny Grunch and the Bunch play at the Coronation Ball.
Other innovations and features: Beautiful invitations and dance cards like 1800s by a series of royal artists: Beth Kesmodel, Hal Pluche, Jeanne Woods, Arthur Nead, and Kevin Barre.
My own Krewe of Underwear, part of the historic Krewe du Vieux, roll January 19, which is very exciting and probably a very cold evening. I’ll have to bundle up big time before rolling. I love the brass bands, the donkeys, the heavy ribald satire, and the route- we roll through the French Quarter and the Faubourg Marigny. There is no better place to be January 19 than at our parade or in it. Happy Mardi Gras to the World!!! Here’s our route-