Tag Archives: Krewe of Rex

Mardi Gras New Orleans is a man in a pink tutu

 

 

Mardi Gras 2015
Mardi Gras 2015

Mardi Gras, or Carnival in other lands, is not a spectator sport; it’s participatory street theater for all ages. Babies to grandparents don ornamentation from elaborate costumes to strings of battery powered colored lights. As the countdown to Fat Tuesday approaches – Mardi Gras day – people can be as decorated as a house at Christmas.

 

Mardi Gras 2015 New Orleans
Mardi Gras 2015 New Orleans

 

 

 

Krewe of Babylon, Mardi Gras 2015, New Orleans
Krewe of Babylon, Mardi Gras 2015, New Orleans

To debunk a myth, Mardi Gras is rarely licentious drunken debauchery.

The evening parades are famous yet  many daytime parades during the season cater to families with huge floats interspersed by impressive student marching bands.

Krewe of Carrollton, Mardi Gras 2015 New Orleans
Krewe of Carrollton, Mardi Gras 2015 New Orleans

But it’s the evening parades that capture the imagination.

 

Mardi Gras is more than a carnival. It’s the bond among New Orleanians that even nature couldn’t change.

 

Krewe of Muses, Mardi Gras 2015 New Orleans
Krewe of Muses, Mardi Gras 2015 New Orleans: the only all-womens krewe!!

The flambeaux carrier originally served as a beacon for parade-goers to better enjoy the spectacle of night festivities. They were usually slaves or free men of color.

Mardi Gras 2015 New Orleans
Mardi Gras 2015 New Orleans flamboux carriers (gas fired torches)

The man in the pink tutu, carrying his yellow plastic Mardi Gras cup – the allowable open-container for drinks – is nonchalant as he talks with the Queen of Hearts and the gentleman dressed as a medieval plague doctor. They and hundreds more wait on the corner of Dauphine and Franklin in Bywater for the Krewe ‘tit Rəx to kick off the evening’s parades. They’re not krewe participants; they’re bystanders which means they’re participants.

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Mardi Gras season in New Orleans begins on the Twelfth Night of Christmas, January 6, with the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc’s parade through the French Quarter celebrating the birthday of the city’s patron saint, Joan of Arc. Winter is not the doldrums in this city justifiably known as the Big Easy. To debunk another myth, Mardi Gras is rarely licentious drunken debauchery.

There are 68 krewes (social clubs) in New Orleans. The granddaddy of Mardi Gras, the Krewe of Rex, invented the modern carnival in 1872. They took centuries old European pre-Lenten traditions and fused them with the polyglot cultural mix of America’s most unique city. From the first parade in honor of a Russian prince to today’s multi-week carnival of and for the people, all tastes are catered to – Krewe de Barkus featuring your pet dog to the unabashedly irreverent adult-themed Krewe de Vieux.

A post-Katrina influx of young professionals to fill New Orleans new burgeoning high-tech and medical sector has invigorated Mardi Gras with imaginative new krewes that stray from the mega floats of the more traditional and exclusive super krewes. The Krewe ‘tit Rəx, founded only seven years ago, is unique as New Orleans only micro krewe – their members create shoeboxes into full themed tiny floats. The krewe’s name comes from the Cajun abbreviation of petite (small).

The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus followed ‘tit Rəx. They are a new krewe with a Sci-Fi themed Mardi Gras parade – a spoof on the seriousness of Comic-com and Star Trex conventions.  For over 90 minutes many dozens of fanciful floats in odd shapes, marching bands and brigades of aliens were pushed, pedaled or pulled through the streets. The krewe members make most of their throws and prized catches this year were purple painted penne pasta necklaces and bottle caps with arrangements of red beans and rice.

The 90 year-old Krewe of Carrollton, one of the many daytime parades during the season, is a family favorite of huge floats interspersed with impressive student marching bands. Running down elegant St. Charles Avenue there’s lots of opportunity to catch the iconic and colorful bead necklaces thrown by traditionally masked float riders.

From the generations that have called New Orleans home for nearly 300 years to the overheard comment of a young professional proclaiming, “Why would I live anywhere else?” Mardi Gras is more than a carnival. It’s the bond among New Orleanians that even nature couldn’t change. It’s a man in a pink tutu embracing the present.

 

Sargon kink of the Krewe of Babylon Mardi Gras 2015 New Orleans
Sargon king of the Krewe of Babylon Mardi Gras 2015 New Orleans

 

You can read additional articles of Chef Marc d’Entremont at:

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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:

 

You can read more of my articles at…

Hellenic News of America

Original World Insights

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