During the parade season in the New Orleans metro area, it is not uncommon for three parades to roll on weeknights, and ten or more each weekend, with the processions often taking place simultaneously in different areas of the city. Do parades ever occur a the same time, in the same place? It doesn’t sound possible, but…

Once, in 1890, two krewes tried to parade in the same place and time. The incident is well known to Carnival historians, yet very few 2009 parade goers have heard the tale.

The year is 1886, and Comus the first of all krewes to parade in 1857, ceases parading due to financial difficulties.  Proteus assumes the Mardi Gras night date and keeps it, in Comus absence, for five years.

Comus decides to resume parading for the 1890 season, with a return to their old night planned.  They send a letter to the Mayor of New Orleans, Joseph Shakespeare, informing Proteus of their desire to share Mardi Gras night, with Proteus preceding them. Proteus sends a reply back to the mayor consenting. An agreement having been reached, no trouble was expected, even though the letters exchanged through Mayor Shakespeare were rich in mutual disrespect.

Fate seemed to be against both krewes, as neither parade rolled smoothly. As luck would have had it, the two processions headed for the intersection of Bourbon and Canal Streets at the same time. Led by their Captains on horseback, they met as Proteus turned from Canal onto Bourbon. The Captains circled each other angrily, holding their riding crops menacinglyh high, shouting back and forth. The processions stopped abruptly, and even though the Captains were friends for many years, a fight seemed eminent.

Out of nowhere, a masked man moved quickly from the parade crowd, gripped the bridle of the Proteus Captain’s mount and moved him away, separating the antagonists. This person was the brother of the Comus Captain and a member of both krewes. He had placed himself at a strategic spot on the route, and his solitary actions prevented an ugly Mardi Gras event from taking place. As Carnival tradition has it, the mediator was charged with parade interference and arrested, but was freed in time for the Comus Ball.

*Thanks to Charles “Pie” Dufour and the Krewe of Proteus*