Building New Orleans traditions: Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras World is a living museum for an international festival as celebrated as it’s misunderstood. Daily public tours showcase a wide range of Mardi Gras themes from the ribald to down home family friendly. And while a guest is snapping photos and listening to the guide, Kern Studio artists are busy in the real work of creating Mardi Gras 2015.

painting a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
painting a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

 

Mardi Gras decoration on a French Quarter house mid-January 2015
Mardi Gras decoration on a French Quarter house mid-January 2015

Fat Tuesday falls on February 17th this year (2015)  but in New Orleans, Mardi Gras season  begins on the Twelfth Night of Christmas,  January 6,  which also happens to be the birthday of the city’s patron saint, Joan of Arc. History, legend and real life often create everyday activities in culturally diverse New Orleans. At Mardi Gras World that legacy keeps 50 artists busy year round.

 

a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

 

a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

 

 

 

 

painting a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
painting a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

Mardi Gras expresses the uniqueness of a region that’s been home and country to Native Americans, Europeans, Africans, the Americas and displaced populations (Cajuns, slaves). There are Mardi Gras parades from Mobile, Alabama to Galveston, Texas and in every parish in southern Louisiana. But New Orleans is the cultural center of Mardi Gras in North America.

 

a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

Mardi Gras is the gumbo of festivals, a melange of cultural and social influences. It has traditions set by krewes – dozens of them – but it’s the individual themes chosen each year by the krewes that make  Mardi Gras parades unpredictable fun. Yet the evolution of Mardi Gras as we know it today is an 1870s invention of New Orleans businessmen to honor the visit of a Russian prince on Fat Tuesday. They created the Krewe of Rex and the good times have been rolling since.

the immense Smokey Mary train float, Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
the immense Smokey Mary train float, Krewe of Orpheus, Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

Mardi Gras World is a family owned juggernaut of monumental float designs. Founded in the 1930s by New Orleans artist Blaine Kern (Kern Studios ) what started as painting random props for parade floats quickly blossomed into contracts with over a dozen of Mardi Gras most influential and historic krewes including Rex. Beyond parades, Kern Studios is the leader in creating “themed environments” for conventions, resorts and the media.

prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

The krewes own the massive float infrastructures – the actual moving machines – but the decorations, the props, are usually rented from Kern Studios since themes change annually. Many props today start with a base of styrofoam.

carving the styrofoam base of a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
carving the styrofoam base of a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

Often props are repurposed several times and Kern Studio artists make magic with such standard mediums as paper mache to create features.

adding paper mache to a prop before painting at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
adding paper mache to a prop before painting at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

The larger than life demensions of most props dictate spray painting as an efficient method, although meticulous brush painting may still be necessary with elaborate detail.

spray painting a prop at Mardi Gras World
spray painting a prop at Mardi Gras World

 

brush painting a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
brush painting a prop at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

Appropriate to the city’s nickname, the Big Easy, after the tour guests are free to wander the massive warehouse admiring, photographing and watching the artists at work. One would never guess that the parades begin in a couple short weeks. By the end of January, Mardi Gras season will be in full swing with over two weeks of parades, many showcasing the grandeur and fun of Kern Studio’s Mardi Gras World artistry.

Mardi Gras World, New Orleans
Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

Mardi Gras World, located on the Mississippi River in downtown New Orleans, is open for tours seven days a week. Parking is available but a free shuttle runs from several hotels and tourist locations in the city.

Click  New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade for a complete 2015 schedule.

Watch Smokey Mary in action at the Krewe of Orpheus 2013 parade:

 

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Suite 101

Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial Concert

 

United States Marine Corps Band New Orleans at St. Louis Cathedral
United States Marine Corps Band New Orleans at St. Louis Cathedral

 

Marine Corps Band New Orleans
Marine Corps Band New Orleans

Both the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France (c. 1793 & 1850) and the Marines are intimately tied to that seminal day in New Orleans history, January 8, 1815. It was an apt setting 200 years to the day for the United States Marine Corps Band to perform a concert in honor of the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans.

Fireworks lit the night sky following the concert, illuminating Jackson Square and trying to shed some light on the the little understood War of 1812.

 

Fireworks at Jackson Square, New Orleans
Fireworks at Jackson Square, New Orleans

Read about this historic concert in…

Marine Corps Band Battle of New Orleans concert

 

Clark Mills equestrian statue (1856) of General Andrew Jackson, Jackson Square, New Orleans
Clark Mills equestrian statue (1856) of General Andrew Jackson, Jackson Square, New Orleans

 

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Twelfth Night in New Orleans

 

Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc's birthday parade
Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc’s birthday parade

Twelfth Night may mark end of Christmas, but January 6 is also the birthday of the Maid of Orleans and in New Orleans that portends the revelries of Mardi Gras in just a few short weeks.

Joan of Arc's birthday King Cake
Joan of Arc’s birthday King Cake
Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc's birthday parade
Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc’s birthday parade

Part medieval morality play, part New Orleans street festival, the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc’s birthday parade has grown in popular favor since its inception in 2008.  The populace are encouraged to join in the pageantry.

 

Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc's birthday parade
Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc’s birthday parade

Read more in…

New Orleans throws Joan of Arc a birthday bash

 

Staff member of Morning Call Coffee Stand playing the flute during break, City Park, New Orleans
Staff member of Morning Call Coffee Stand playing the flute during break, City Park, New Orleans
City Park, New Orleans
City Park, New Orleans

At over 150 years-old the venerable 1,300 acre City Park could not look better 75% through its nearly 20 year rejuvenation master plan.

 

City Park, New Orleans
City Park, New Orleans

 

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Twas nights before a southern Christmas

 

In Marion Square, Charleston, SC
In Marion Square, Charleston, SC

DSC06665Walk down any Charleston street and you’ll be acknowledged. Stop and ask a question and be prepared for a lengthy and enthusiastic conversation. As one gentleman said, “Charleston’s always been unique.”

DSC06618

 

Did Charleston invent the spirit of Christmas?

 

Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA
Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA
Santa's Workshop in gingerbread
Santa’s Workshop in gingerbread

Richmond’s elegant Jefferson Hotel used to stock live alligators in the fountain of the Palm Court lobby. How does Christmas top that? Old Pompey, immortalized by a taxidermist, was the last and after his passing in 1948 the fountain was removed.

 

Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA
Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

Richmond residents as well as visitors are drawn to both the lobby and hotel restaurants akin to New York’s Time Square – it’s the city’s Christmas focal point. Read why at…

Christmas alligators at the Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

 

Polar Express Christmas trolly tour stop, Historic Pensecola, FL
Polar Express Christmas trolly tour stop, Historic Pensecola, FL
The Happy Pig Cafe, Historic Pensecola
The Happy Pig Cafe, Historic Pensacola

Seville Square and Pensacola’s National Historic District remain one of America’s most enduring Florida gulf shore neighborhoods and a focal point for Christmas festivities.

 

 

 

 

Pensacola National Historic District, FL
Pensacola National Historic District, FL

Read why Historic Pensacola has the ambiance of a village within the 21st century city and Christmas reflects its southern charm.

Historic Florida Christmas in Pensacola Village

 

Glass dome of the Palm Court Lobby, Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA
Glass dome of the Palm Court Lobby, Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA

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Hersheypark might have been built in New Orleans

Hersheypark, PA, roller coasters
Hersheypark, PA, roller coasters
The Hershey Story: Museum on Chocolate Ave., Hershey, PA
The Hershey Story: Museum on Chocolate Ave., Hershey, PA

But in 1883  Milton Hershey gave up on a southern location and moved back to his home state of Pennsylvania launching a career that would make him a legend. The exhibits in the Hershey Story are laid out within a modern spacious interior in chronological order covering cacao and chocolate processing, the long life and career of Milton Hershey, the company, the town and his legacy.

 

Hershey Hotel from Hershey Gardens, Hershey, PA
Hershey Hotel from Hershey Gardens, Hershey, PA

“ . . .there is no provision for a police department, nor for a jail. Here there will be no unhappiness, then why any crime.” Milton Hershey, 1903, on planning Hershey, PA.

Read about Milton Hershey’s chocolate utopia at…

The Hershey Story is sweet legacy

 

 

sampling the world's chocolate in the Chocolate Lab
sampling the world’s chocolate in the Chocolate Lab

 

You can read all my articles at:

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San Diego and La Jolla: hotbed for slow food

 

Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla, CA
Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla, CA
Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla, CA
Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla, CA

From the rustic refinement of La Jolla’s Torrey Pines Lodge to the local spunk of Rubio’s citywide Fresh Mexican Grill, there’s a locally owned venue in any price bracket for all residents to patronize in this southern California urban county, and they seem to happily do so often.

Ribs at the La Jolla Open Aire Market
Ribs at the La Jolla Open Aire Market
Sunset off Del Mar, San Diego
Sunset off Del Mar, San Diego

Sea, cliffs, beach and mountain vistas abound, the climate begs for outdoor dining and the region’s relative affluence blend to create menus of imagination and freshness – California Modern.

Come read about eleven restaurants and a market that exemplify the best San Diego, La Jolla and Southern California offers…

 

Eat California Modern in San Diego and La Jolla 

 

Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego
Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego

You can read all my articles at:

Hellenic News of America

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Where Asia and Europe flow together: Kavala, Greece

 

Kavala, Greece
Kavala, Greece
the Imaret (early 19th century) now boutique hotel.
the Imaret (early 19th century) now boutique hotel.

The twisting streets of Kavala’s old city reveals its recent past. The architecture is a mosaic of historical patterns befitting a port city serving empires. Known as Neapolis for its first thousand years, Kavala has born witness to dreamers and emperors since the 7th century B.C.  It’s easy to marvel at the 16th century engineering beauty of the Kamares aquaduct from the fortress.

 

The Kamares aquaduct (15th century)
The Kamares aquaduct (15th century)

Adding to the charm of the city are important and entertaining sites in the nearby countryside – the impressive remains of Philippi,  Lydia, the Krinides Therapeutic Clay Baths and vineyards on the mountain where Dionysus resided in the Pangaion Hills.

Ktima Biblia Chora vineyard on the slopes of Mt. Pangaion.
Ktima Biblia Chora vineyard on the slopes of Mt. Pangaion.

 

To get there, stay at, go to and dine please read…

Kavala: still fresh after 2,700 years

 

N 40° 55' dining room at the Lucy Hotel, Kavala
N 40° 55′ dining room at the Lucy Hotel, Kavala

 

You can read all my articles at:

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Rehoboth Beach and Harrisburg: an art and culinary drive

Harrisburg the capital of Pennsylvania and Rehoboth Beach in far southern Delaware may be 165 miles apart, but they share similar European colonial origins, the Susquehanna/Chesapeake Bay river basin and legendary farmlands.

Wearable art at the Art League of Rehoboth
Wearable art at the Art League of Rehoboth
Larry Ringgold,  driftwood horse sculpture,  Peninsula Gallery
Larry Ringgold, driftwood horse sculpture, Peninsula Gallery

 

From plein air painters feasting on the raw natural beauty of beaches and marshland to cutting edge jewelry design, southern Delaware has nurtured the arts for the past century.  As the motto of the Art League of Rehoboth says, Art Grows Here.™

 

 

Abraxas Hudson, artist , owner Abraxas Studio of Art, Lewes, DE.
Abraxas Hudson, artist , owner Abraxas Studio of Art, Lewes, DE.

 

View eleven of Sussex County’s best galleries at…

 Southern Delaware art galleries break design barriers

 

Cafe Fresco's Dim Sum Donuts
Cafe Fresco’s Dim Sum Donuts

 

a Pennsylvania dairy farm
a Pennsylvania dairy farm

Before there was state government, before there was coal, iron, steel and chocolate, farm and tavern table were always next-door. The ingredients to make a creamy mushroom risotto, charcuterie, or a Polish vegetarian chili are still from the earth surrounding the Harrisburg/Hershey region.

Bar at Devon Seafood Grill
Bar at Devon Seafood Grill

 

A spotlight on eight venues offering  culinary creativity…

Where farm and table are always next door 

 

Scrambled eggs w/truffles, pheasant sausage at Suba
Scrambled eggs w/truffles, pheasant sausage at Suba

 

You can read all my articles at:

Hellenic News of America

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Culinary Travel Examiner

 International Dining Examiner

International Travel Examiner

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Alonissos, Greece: Touch the Soul

 

robetiko musicians at To Kamaki
robetiko musicians at To Kamaki

 

Alonissos Island
Alonissos Island

“Alonissos is a close knit community,” British expats Dave Court and Gerry Ivison said. For me it’s the robetiko ballads that touch the soul of both Alonissos and Greece.

Not all Greek islands are similar. In this most northerly of the Sporades islands, the towering pine forests tumble down the rocky cliffs to the sea.

 

Tsoukali beach windmill
Tsoukali beach windmill

 

Palio Horio, Alonissos
Palio Horio, Alonissos

Secluded beaches, historic towns, lush pine forests, the land gives way to solitude as one drives north from the port capital of Patitiri to Gerka. Cafes, tavernas, museums, hotels, artists all make Alonissos home, and so did pirates.

At the Museum  of Alonissos
At the Museum of Alonissos

 

Read more in my Hellenic News of America column on this alluring central Aegean island…

Alonissos Island is a floating spoon sweet

 

Sunset on Alonissos
Sunset on Alonissos

You can read all my articles at:

Hellenic News of America

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Luxury versus Industry Leader: which one is better?

 

Cast iron pans: (left) Lodge, (right) Finex
Cast iron pans: (left) Lodge, (right) Finex

 

I’ve been a professional chef for 35 years. I look forward to challenge and trying out new equipment.  I believe in cast iron. It’s been used in making cooking pots for over 2,000 years for good reason.

 

identical ingredients/measurements used in the 1st of 5 blind taste tests
identical ingredients/measurements used in the 1st of 5 blind taste tests

 

Finex is a new company out of Portland, OR, that made some news in the food world the past year by raising their start-up money through Kickstarter.  I conducted five blind taste tests using both the Finex 12SK and the Lodge 10SK3.

Interested in the results?  And the cost difference?

Is the Finex cast iron pan a better mousetrap?

 

which is which?
which is which?

You can read all my articles at:

Hellenic News of America

Original World Insights

Culinary Travel Examiner

 International Dining Examiner

International Travel Examiner

Philadelphia Fine Dining Examiner

Food & Recipes Examiner

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