Mardi Gras 2016 was fantastic, it was exciting, it was downright thrilling at times. Of course, I’m a Mardi Gras freak. It was a very short season, ending on February 9. Next year, Fat Tuesday is more than 2 1/2 weeks later.
I want to thank my sweet girlfriend Sue and my good friend Billy, both Mardi Gras freaks without whom the entire season wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. Billy lives a block from St. Charles Avenue so his house was parade central and I went to virtually all my parades with Sue.
The season began for me with my own Krewe du Vieux, which rolled January 23. It was a terrific parade and the ball was fantastic, with none other than Texas guitar legend and ZZ Top front man Billy Gibbons on guitar and vocals along with Walter Wolfman Washington and George Porter, Jr. The ball was held in the Civic and it’s a pretty nice party forum compared to some of the more sorry auditoriums KdV has used in their recent past.
I caught a couple of newish throws, the Thoth Fedora and the NYX Earbuds.
When Fat Tuesday was only a couple of hours past sunrise, I was on Jackson Avenue below Dryades for Zulu. I was wearing my purple, green and gold silk scarf, my purple reversible satin cape from amazingcapes.com, my gold half mask, and my newly acquired Mardi Gras furry leggings. I bought the leggings Fat Tuesday morning on the Zulu parade route from a shopping cart vendor.
Bands play a big role in parades, the best bands generally are from local high school and surrounding colleges. Out of town bands perform in many parades toward the end of each season, as local high schools are limited to seven parades per season. Bands have been part of Mardi Gras processions and parades since the very beginning. Bands cost the krewes a lot more money post Katrina. Before the storm, parade band fees ran $1,000-$1,500 per parade. After Katrina, the bands ask for and get $3,500 or more. Bands are in demand for more than one reason. They add the beat and the funk, essential elements of parades. The New Orleans City Council has mandated that all Orleans parish parades have 7 bands. My own Krewe du Vieux has around 20 brass bands participate in the parade.
Year after year, the best high school band is the St. Augustine Marching 100, and the best college band is the Southern University Jaguar Band. Other notable bands in 2016 include the Landry Walker High School Band and the Texas Southern Ocean of Soul.
Some of the best looking floats all year were in the Proteus parade. Royal Artists create this parade, and it’s the best work they do by far.
I ended up in the French Quarter at Molly’s at the Market on Decatur around noon Fat Tuesday, to meet the Perv Patrol, my girlfriend’s Sue’s themed costume group. It was the first time in decades I missed REX which was my choice after deciding to see all of ZULU for the first time in as long. ZULU had a long break near the beginning that was over 30 minutes long and set the parade back big time. We ran into the Krewe of Cosmic Debris which had come down Decatur Street just as I arrived. Molly’s is one of their stops so I had a really hard time getting a drink when the krewe invaded the bar. I went down the street to an adjacent bar and bought a double and returned to Molly’s.
Last year’s Parade of the Year, Muses, has taken a step back, as their 2012 floats lacked first rate execution. Blaine Kern didn’t do his usual excellent work for a relatively new super krewe. The floats moved so quickly it was difficult to get a good look.
Their own floats sparkled as usual (also made by Kern). Super krewes draw a huge audience, which often brings out the boorish behavior in many hard drinking spectators, as they jostle the crowd in pursuit of Muses’ vaunted logoed throws.
Not too long ago, Muses was a new krewe that drew much smaller crowds. The sheer number of unique throws, memorable floats and biting satire hadn’t caught on yet. Any ordinary Joe could catch a shoe back then. Those days are way over now.
Muses throws were not anything special for 2012. Check out the YouTube video above, that is one cool fan!! I caught it several years ago. I’m waiting for another out-of-the-box throw.
Their throws included a number of new logoed items, including a band-aid box; a coin purse on a lanyard; a bottle opener/flashlight on a bead and a floating liquid pen. The most original of those throws is the floating liquid pen. That’s a fun writing tool!
I rate Muses number 3 for 2012.
Number 2 is REX, the King of Carnival. They are the oldest daytime parade and still roll on wooden wagon wheels.
REX is number 2 for their historic use of wagon wheels, plus several other important factors. It was a perfect day, and REX is a daytime parade. Blaine Kern builds this parade, and it’s their number 1 showcase daytime parade. The paint job was gorgeous! Kudos to the Kern painting team.
REX introduced their new Butterfly King float for 2012.
REX had several good bands, including the United States Army and the Tulane University Marching Bands. Monroe’s High School Marching Band delivered a strong performance as well. By the time REX rolls on Fat Tuesday, most high school bands are unable to march anymore due to marching limits imposed by the City Council.
The floats looked terrific, as did the krewe’s costumes. The throws were typically REX with a couple of exceptions- they had a fancy cloisonne pin celebrating the new Butterfly King float and re-introduced the plush crown they first threw a few years ago.
Number 1 for 2012 goes to Hermes!! They had it all together in 2012, and that’s a very tall order.
Their bands were top notch- St. Augustine, Xavier Prep, L.B. Landry, McDonogh 35 and several out-of-state bands all marched with Hermes.
Hermes’ throws were improved. They threw plastic Hermes goblets, a light up Hermes headband with plastic wings (D’Etat threw the same headband in purple with the D’Etat logo instead of wings), light up medical caduceus beads, blinky winged shoe beads and a light up ball. A nice throw this year was a crawfish/centipede stuffed toy in Mardi Gras colors. I’m not sure if this an official Hermes toy or a generous generic one.
The floats were top of the line old fashioned, marked by striking colors and expressive prop figures, wonderfully detailed, and an abundance of bouncing paper ornaments, including flowers, grapes, snowflakes and more. The floats moved at a reasonable pace and the traditional flambeaux were interspersed with the floats as were the Lieutenants on horseback, who dispensed purple riding doubloons.
As per tradition, the Hermes captain leads the parade in full regalia on a white horse.
Special Mention goes to the Mystic Krewe of Proteus for the float work of Royal Artists. They have a web site here, it apparently hasn’t been updated for a couple of years, as they are Bordeaux Street uptown and the site lists the North Shore.