When a Carnival krewe’s membership grows by roughly 50% last year (actually this year), you might say they have captured the public’s imagination. It takes a big effort, ridership and budget to make a real splash on the St. Charles parade route. We have Bacchus, Muses, Orpheus, and Thoth with well over 1,000 members, and the biggest of all, Endymion, has just over 3,000 members. Now NYX has 2,232, making them the second biggest krewe. A super krewe is measured by more than membership. The parade counts a lot. They have a very original throw, the decorated, logoed woman’s purse. But they have no original floats yet, as they are building their first for 2016. You need super floats for super krewe status, so NYX won’t arrive on that level until they have a handful of icon, original floats owned by the krewe, and not just rented ones.
When you see the Bacchagator or the Jester Float, it’s exciting because you are witnessing two of the icon floats of all of Carnival around the world.
In Greek mythology NYX was the Goddess of Night. NYX stood at or near the beginning of creation and was one of the first elements emerging from Chaos along with day, fire, and water. Her appearances in mythology are sparse, but reveal her as a figure of exceptional power and beauty. NYX had prophetic powers, and gave oracles from her home at the edge of the cosmos. She mothered other personified deities such as Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death), with Erebus. She was older and more powerful than Zeus, who deferred to her wishes.
Each year the krewe visits the tomb of Marie Laveau, legendary Voodoo priestess, to ask for good weather for their parade. Laveau is buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
The first family of Mardi Gras, the people responsible for building REX, Bacchus, Endymion, Orpheus, Caesar, Zulu and many more Mardi Gras parades, have ended their family feud. When you sue your octogenarian father, you create a rift that’s hard to close, but apparently the Kern family have overcome their differences.
We are all happy to have it behind us and just kind of move forward and do what we do best, and that’s build floats and create Mardi Gras, Barry Kern said. Blaine Kern, Sr, the patriarch of the Kern clan, agreed to a corporate succession plan with his son of Blaine Kern Artists Inc at New Orleans Civil District Court last week. The senior Kern sold his 50.1 percent in the company to his son Barry. Blaine received a lifetime consulting contract with the firm.
Where is Blaine Kern, Jr? Blaine’s other son is no where to be found in this story. After meeting with the judge, Barry and Blaine, along with their wives and Barry’s sons Fitz and Andrew, all went out to lunch together. No sign of Blaine, Jr. or his family. Hmmm….
I’m elated this half a decade old sad story has a happy ending. The patriarch is satisfied as he got paid by his son for his company so he can ‘retire’ in comfort. He’s 88, and mostly wants to spend time with his wife Holly and burnish his Mr. Mardi Gras brand.
I’ve also said before, the reason this whole court debacle occurred is because Pixie Naquin isn’t there to smooth over the hurt feelings for the sake of family unity. She was the founder’s executive secretary almost since he started out in business, and she never let past serious family disputes end up on court. She was the cat’s meow for Kern Enterprises, there’s absolutely no doubt about that.
Judge Kern Reese’s consent judgement accomplishes several things- the court retains jurisdiction for two years over any future problems, all lawsuits filed by both parties are dismissed, and Reese’s 2012 injunction giving Barry Kern control of the company is terminated.
I have been reading other lists of Mardi Gras parade rankings and not agreeing with the ratings. Granted, my opinions are as subjective as the next persons. I count factors like which krewes’ reputations are growing in the public eye.
Tie, 1 & 2- Krewe du Vieux and Muses. KdV is a very large grass roots affair that follows historic tradition seriously, allowing them to roll in the French Quarter and Marigny. Their floats are pulled by mules; they are smaller than regular parade floats. They throw buttons, wooden doubloons, and other original throws. They only hire local brass bands who play more than other marching bands and play far funkier music. KdV’s floats skewer the worst of New Orleans.
Muses also has many ideas of their own and the public adores them. Their reputation has come on like gangbusters over the last decade. They invented the first icon, all original throw that has caught the public’s imagination since the Zulu coconut, the decorated ladies shoe. Every year they come up with novel throws. They have cornered the market and raised the bar substantially on dancing groups such as Rolling Elvi, Glambeaux, 610 Stompers. Pussyfooters, etc. They are a large organization like KdV who take their parade and their party very seriously. Muses has opened the door for women who want to be part of a modern, cool, and fun parading krewe experience.
3. REX There is only one REX, King of Carnival. It’s true. Founded in 1872, they are responsible for purple, green and gold being the official colors of Mardi Gras. They roll in very old wooden wagon chassis with wooden wheels from the 1800s. REX marches at 10 am Fat Tuesday, and the bright light that time of day illuminates the floats’ gold foil so beautifully.
On Mardi Gras Day, REX is truly King of New Orleans, as the mayor hands over the keys to the city to the reigning monarch.
Their signature floats- the King’s Jester, Boeuf Gras (Fatted Cow), Streetcar Named Desire and His Majesty’s Royal Calliope are well known throughout the land. REX had one of the first charity aspects to their krewe and it remains strong in the new millennium.
Gods of All the Ages is this year’s REX theme, the topic reflects gods and goddesses from antiquity. REX works hard at developing an original theme and displaying it brilliantly on its floats.
4. Proteus- The bands aren’t that great, and the riders are haughty, but the floats are so damned gorgeous and the traditional flambeaux kick butt all season. Now that Momus and Comus are no more, the only night time parade from the 1800s is Proteus. The float riders always keep their masks on and wear beautiful costumes.
Proteus, like REX, utilize wooden wagon chassis and wooden wheels. This limits the size of the floats since the smaller wooden chassis cannot support larger float structures.
There are no better floats in all of Carnival. This 2010 Proteus float is my favorite float out of so many other favorites.
5. Zulu- Zulu is a one of a kind parade, as all of my top 5 parades are. Zulu has the original icon Mardi Gras parade throw- the Zulu coconut! There is nothing like it anywhere else in Carnival. Zulu has great bands, great throws, and they are the only major parade except for Endymion that doesn’t march down St. Charles Avenue.
Zulu has unique officers, such as their Witch Doctor, Big Shot, Ambassador, Mr. Big Stuff, Mayor, Governor, and Province Prince.
6. Bacchus- The original super krewe, with a lot of signature floats the public loves such as the Bacchagator, Bacchasaurus, and Baccha-Whoppa. Their King Kong, Mama Kong and Baby Kong floats are perennial favorites.
Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, has been portrayed by celebrities including Raymond Burr, Bob Hope, Dom DeLuise, Charlton Heston, William Shatner and Kirk Douglas, and Dick Clark. Bacchus was the first parade to feature a Hollywood celebrity as ruler.
In 2014, the Krewe of Bacchus will be lead by celebrity ruler Hugh Laurie of the television show House.
7. Le Krewe d’Etat- d’Etat has style, earning this relatively high ranking. All floats are original, they call their king The Dictator, and they have manufactured their own style of flambeaux which work and keep their carriers safe.
The Dictator’s “court” includes the Kingfish, the Special Man, the Minister of Misinformation, the Keeper of the Bones and the High Priest. d’Etat’s motto is Vivite ut Vehatis. Vehite ut Vevatis, which roughly translates to Live to Ride, Ride to Live.
The Krewe decides a new theme for their parade annually (raison d’etre), and it, just like The Dictator’s identity, remains confidential. Like many other parades, d’Etat’s floats are highly satirical.
8. Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus- This description is from Wikipedia. The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus is made up of over 500 dues-paying members who call themselves BacchanALIENs. The group was founded by self-styled publicity stuntman and conceptual artist Ryan S Ballard and curator/events director Kirah Haubrich in the fall of 2010. They were soon joined by local attorney Brett Powers and together they comprise the three Overlords of the Krewe. Their signature parade contraption and mascot is a 7-foot tall Bar2D2 that dispenses alcoholic beverages pulled by a XXX-Wing tricycle.
Throws are homemade and include bean bags, custom beads, flying discs, stuffed animals and decorated bandoliers. New for 2014- 100 rolling Elliots on bicycles in red hoodies with E.T.s in their bike baskets. Chewbacchus is the first truly science fiction Mardi Gras parade.
9. Chaos- Momus and Comus stopped parading, and a few years later, Chaos appears. There is a strong connection. Apparently the younger members of the two krewes weren’t OK with the decision to stop parading, so they formed Chaos. The floats are satirical, like d’Etat, Tucks and like Momus used to be.
The floats are old fashioned and smaller than the usual floats and super floats. Like Proteus, they use the old wooden wagon chassis and wooden wheels, and they employ the historic flambeaux, a beautiful sight.
10. Tucks- Any krewe that throws plungers, rolls of toilet paper and little plastic toilets that pee water is going to make my top 10 parade list. The Orleans Parish City Council this year gave some discussion to banning the toilet paper. The public outcry ended that crazy thought. Tucks has a really meaningful logo. No Latin for them, how about Booze, Beer, Bourbon, Broads? Tucks has an a very irreverent attitude!
Back in the day, I used to have my own float in Tucks. I’d pay the krewe a cash payment, and they would let me bring my decorated stake bed truck into the parade. That doesn’t happen anymore, parades regulations are very strict about extra vehicles entering the parade.
Tuck’s Toilet Bowl Float is one of a kind.
Mardi Gras the last two years has sucked for me. A major personal tragedy occurred in my life and it took a couple of years to come back. This year I’m living very very close to the main parade route. That should make for one big Carnival party at my place. I expect the 2014 Carnival season to be a fabulous one.
Mardi Gras is March 4th this year, and since Twelfth Night is a fixed date, January 6, the Carnival season is long. The season can be long or short or somewhere in between. The first parade in Orleans Parish annually is KdV (February 15), and I roll with them. Hurray!! Yeah!! Fun time!!
We roll in the French Quarter and Marigny, and our floats are pulled by mules, as they were a hundred years ago. We’re the only major Orleans Parish parade in those historic neighborhoods. Our floats are handmade by each sub krewe and far smaller than regular floats. The main krewe and the sub krewes make and throw their own buttons, with the central parade theme and the sub krewe’s theme on them.
The true strength and power of KdV can be plainly seen in our unbelievable list of brass bands. I’m in the music business and I cannot fathom this amount of brass muscle!
2014 KdV Brass Bands
Baby Boyz Brass Band
Stooges Brass Band
Treme Brass Band
Egg Yolk Jubilee
Hot Eight Brass band
Down and Dirty
Gretna and the North Shore continue to struggle with krewe membership problems. The leading factor is financial difficulties. For 2014, the North Shore will have only a single parade, the krewe of Eve. Eve’s membership is down from 570 to 300. That’s a drop of almost 50%, but the krewe is still large enough to support the parade. Mandeville’s Krewe of Orpheus didn’t parade last year and didn’t file to parade in 2014. The Captain said the membership had declined. This hardly constitutes a parade season on the North Shore.
On the bright side, Slidell’s Krewe of Claude failed to parade in 2013 but will be rolling for 2014. In fact, Slidell lost no parades from last year even though several krewes reported financial and membership difficulties, an excellent record considering what occurring in Jefferson and the North Shore. Last fall, the Slidell City Council passed new Mardi Gras regulations that raised fees for parades, instituted a minimum number of floats and riders per float for a parade.
Gretna lost Grela founded in 1947. That’s a major blow. Metairie lost Thor. That’s big also, 2014 is the 40th anniversary for Thor. Alla, a West Bank stalwart for decades, now rolls down St. Charles Avenue. It is painfully obvious that Carnival in Jefferson Parish is suffering right now.
The New Orleans City Council made sure they would originate many of the Orleans Parish Mardi Gras changes this year with a new group of rules and regulations concerning Carnival. You can read about the bill here.
The first parades down St. Charles in 2014 roll on Friday, February 21. Orleans Parish gets two days off this year, February 25 and 26 (Monday/Tuesday). I’m looking for a warm Mardi Gras, almost all Fat Tuesdays that fall in March are warm. It’s been a very cold winter so far in New Orleans, so we’ll have to see.
I love all Mardi Gras parades, and always have. Any krewe that can jump through all the hoops necessary to put on a real parade has my undying respect. It never was easy and now it’s very daunting. Parades and insurance costs go up and up. Krewes must have a minimum number of floats and bands now.
Nevertheless, I have my favorites and this forecast will highlight those. I look forward to my own parade, Krewe du Vieux, of course. It’s a lot of fun. The first weekend of parades, I prefer Sparta, Chewbaccus and Alla. Then Babylon, Muses, d’Etat, Tucks, Endymion, Mid City, Thoth, Bacchus, Proteus, Orpheus, Zulu and Rex. I love the truck parades down St. Charles.
The Krewe of Freret is back for 2014 after being gone for 2 decades! I’ve watched Freret when it rolled down Freret St. When I lived on Robert Street for a decade the Freret procession was my neighborhood parade.
The green movement has met Mardi Gras, and it’s resonating with the holiday. Most people realize that beads come from oil and from China and are one big waste of resources. They don’t compost very well either. Many organizations like ARC recycle beads and groups like verdigras.com strive to recycle, reduce and reuse.
Bring your Mardi Gras Beads to one of these following Arc locations:
925 S. Labarre Rd., Metairie
5700 Loyola Avenue, New Orleans
333 Sala Avenue, Westwego
3406 Hessmer Avenue, Metairie
Pontchartrain Center, Kenner
Neurological Rehabilitation Center, Covington
Whole Food Locations (Magazine & Veterans)
Mardi Gras World
Children’s Room, Main Library
Children’s Resource Center
Martin Luther King Branch
Forward leaning krewes like Krewe du Vieux and Chewbaccus make many of their throws by hand and use recycled materials in their throws.
The 2013 Carnival season in New Orleans was one of the warmest on record, I didn’t wear a jacket until the last couple of days of the season. The Super Bowl interrupted Mardi Gras this year, so parades were held before and after the 9 day break.
Had a rather tough time at the parades this year, my large group of parade goers had winnowed down over time to just me and my beloved wife. Now that she’s gone, I saw the parades by myself. That’s not much fun, and it’s kind of sad.
I still enjoyed myself when the parades rolled. I’m such a huge Mardi Gras fan,I couldn’t help myself. I love the atmosphere, the bands, marching groups, floats, etc.
So we’ll start with the King of Carnival, REX. I dress in purple, green and gold most Mardi Gras, and this year I had a felt frog hat that added a bit of mirth to my serious costume.
REX is an old line krewe that is composed of 3 circles of membership. The inner ring is old blue blood types, and the King and Captain come from that group. The middle ring is new money types. They can become officers, but that’s it. The outside ring is composed of anyone, more or less. If you are successful in life and give something back to the community, there is a good chance REX may have a parade spot for you.
The first two rings of REX are very haughty on the parade route. They only throw to pretty girls and children. The last ring of REX throws to anyone. They are just happy to be riding with REX and give throws to the male sex even! Obviously, the sentiments laid out here are generalizations only.
REX looked grand, it’s the best looking daylight parade by far. The floats aren’t the huge ones that Bacchus, Endymion and Orpheus use, as the float chassis are build on very old wagon bodies, with wooden wheels on the floats!! I don’t know who repairs the wheels, the last wheel wright died a while ago, and I lost touch with the process.
Zulu rolled right at 8 am on Jackson Avenue on a beautiful Mardi Gras day. Marlin Gusman was on horseback with a gaggle of sheriff’s deputies, Mayor Mitch Landrieu was also in the parade.
Zulu appreciates costuming, and if you have a funny aspect to your costume, that only helps. Zulu has some haughty riders, but most aren’t. When the double decker, double length floats arrived, they were handing out coconuts with a frenzy. I caught 5, gave away 2 on the spot, and one later. I don’t remember any double floats in the past handing down so many coconuts.
Zulu now color coordinates their coconut colors! If the riders wore orange gowns, their coconuts were painted the same color orange.
I had to leave Zulu at 9 am to go home to pick up the smart card for my camera, then off to REX. On the way I say a man and his son walking around near Zulu. They were having a tough time getting there, so I reached into my bag and gave them a nice Zulu coconut. You never saw such big smiles! I was happy to give them that coconut.
Proteus the night before was one gorgeous parade. They are a very old krewe, from the late 1800s. Proteus also uses wooden wagon chassis and wooden wheels from long ago.
Muses is the biggest all female Carnival krewe in existence. The crowds turn out for Muses, since their reputation for new, novel throws has grown large. Their most unique and rare throw, the Muses decorated shoe throw, is highly sought after. I didn’t get any shoes this year, but got lots of other unique throws, including a Muses magnetic shopping list with pad, special marker,and erasable writing surface; Muses collapsible drink flask with carabiner; Muses shoelaces in a cool plastic test tube; Muses flashlight that flashes the Muses symbol (as in Batman and the Bat signal commissioner Gordon uses to get Batman’s attention); a Muses reusable grocery shopping bag; and a Muses bead catching net. The net was a pain at the parade, all the folks who received them waved them in everyone’s faces while trying to catch throws.
I noticed for several years that Muses only throws stuff with their logo on it. That means the krewe must buy all their throws from the krewe. That’s a very expensive proposition. Most other krewes require their members to buy some throws with their logo on it, but allow the members to augment their krewe purchases with generic, cheaper throws. I bet the Muses dues is less than the cost of purchasing all those krewe throws. I really don’t think the average Muses krewe member cares. To belong to Muses, is well, one of the more divine and sublime experiences in the New Orleans Carnival world.
Krewe du Vieux rolled very early in the season, moved back a week by the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, the first parade of the season had rather warm weather this year, As readers of this blog know, I’m in KdV, and I’m very partial to it.
All the reasons- the historic parade route, the donkeys, the brass bands, and the outright over the top ribald floats- have been covered in this blog numerous times. Yes, I love my KdV!!
Roger Goodell, long time NFL Commissioner, made a statement alluding to the KdV float, the anti Goodell signage in stores,restaurants and bars all over town, and the voodoo dolls he’s been given. He claims none of that influenced his decision to lift Saints Coach Peyton’s suspension a couple of weeks early. We all know better!