Feb 22, 201012:00 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Errol Laborde: Krewsin’ the Streets: Notes From Carnival ’10
This will forever be remembered as the Super Bowl Mardi Gras. It was the Carnival in which black and gold overtook purple, green and gold and in which “Stand Up and Get Crunk” was heard more often than “Mardi Gras Mambo.” There must have been a run on silver aluminum foil because on Mardi Gras, the most common object carried by maskers was likenesses of the Lombardi Trophy.
Our Carnival heritage certainly played a role in the Super Bowl celebrations. Local police have lots of experience managing crowds, so on the night of the Super Bowl victory, the celebration was peaceful. Locals also have plenty of experience partying, so they know it is not necessary to set a car on fire to have a good time. And what other city can have a dozen or so floats ready to go for a championship parade?
Drew Brees has landed a place in Carnival trivia as the only person to ride a Bacchus king’s float twice within the span of a week, first in the Super Bowl parade and then again, five days later, as Bacchus.
I cannot imagine the actual Lombardi Trophy getting as much exposure as the one the Saints own. Coach Sean Payton carried it in both the Super Bowl parade and during his ride in Orpheus. In the realm of Rex, the Saints were the victorious fighters, having returned from the East as the conquerors. The Lombardi was a magical scepter, and the crowd never ceased to love.
MOST IMPROVED PARADE
The Krewe of Pontchartrain provided proof that you do not have to be big and rich to have a good parade. It is more important to just do the little things right. The krewe had a parade with style and wit.
ABOUT THE SUPERKREWES
Bacchus was a contender, taking advantage of its Valentine’s evening time slot to present a theme of love and romance, and the crowd certainly felt passionate about Drew Brees riding on the throne float. The only disappointment was that many, many riders were unmasked. In Orleans Parish the law says that all riders in Carnival parades are supposed to be masked, and the better krewes all enforce that regulation. On one Bacchus float, No. 5, practically everyone had shunned his mask by the time the float got to Gallier Hall. Another float stopped near where I was watching, and I even pushed to the front row to signal the riders to put their masks on. They just stared blankly as though they had no idea what I was talking about. A co-worker who had texted me from earlier in the route advised me about the unmasking. I thought it might have been just a fluke, but no, something is wrong. The riders are not getting the message.
As far as I could tell, all 2,400 of Endymion’s riders kept their masks on as the krewe celebrated magic as a theme. As always, the parade was big and vibrant. Having so many riders necessitates tandem floats that are all rather boxy-looking. Recent efforts to visually spiff up the floats have helped, but there is still is that undeniable Endymion look. Nevertheless, the parade is the best thing that has happened to Canal Street since the streetcar, and there seemed to be more people camping out, securing a good spot along the parade route, than ever before. More than a parade, Endymion is an economic and sociological force along the Canal Street route along which it is the only krewe to still parade.
Orpheus, as always, had the prettiest parade. No superkrewe tops the looks of this visually stunning group. The only downer was founder Harry Connick Jr., who looked totally bored on his float –– not so Coach Sean Payton, who joyfully waved the Lombardi Trophy. All the riders kept their masks on, and the parade moved reasonably well. Among superkrewes, it was the year’s best.
What a loss: The Krewe of Chaos did not parade after falling to the bad weather on the Thursday night before Carnival. Had it paraded, spectators would have seen a sassy satirical parade in the true Carnival tradition. From what I saw of the preview, Mayor Nagin can be thankful Chaos stayed in its den. May the krewe make it to the streets next year.
BEST TRADITIONAL NIGHT PARADE
Proteus presented a pretty and elegant parade celebrating astrology. The parade was a visual wonder for those who appreciate the early Carnival. Combined with Orpheus, which follows it, the parades of Lundi Gras evening are Carnival’s most beautiful.
COMING ON STRONG
Watch out for Thoth, which has become one of Carnival’s biggest and most ambitious parades.
CATEGORY OF ITS OWN
Mid-City continues to look spectacular with its unique style using foil in a way no one else does. It is not the biggest or most opulent parade, but in its own way, it is the prettiest of the daytime parades.
BEST COSTUMED GROUPS MEANDERING THE QUARTER AND MARIGNY ON MARDI GRAS
Here is where the real spirit of Carnival resides.
• Society of St. Ann, which begins its procession in Bywater, combined with its auxiliary and splinter groups
• Ducks on Dixieland
• Mondo Kayo
• Cosmic Debris
BEST OVERALL PARADE
Rex remains best. No one does it better than the King of Carnival. The parade was well-timed, smart and a visual wonder. Rex’s signature floats, including the Boeuf Gras, the bandwagon and His Majesty’s throne float, are among Carnival’s best. The sight of the Rex riding lieutenants in costumes of purple, green or gold is one of my favorites in all Carnival.The theme, which celebrated legends of fire, was joyful. Rex’s Web site, the best in Carnival, has become an educational tool for developing the theme. Rex does it right, presenting a parade fit for a king.
BEST DATE TO REMEMBER
Mardi Gras 2011
Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival - Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via e- mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 895-2266.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. ON WYES-TV, CHANNEL 12.
NOW ON WIST RADIO-690 AM, THE ERROL LABORDE SHOW, FRIDAYS, 6 P.M; SATURDAYS, 8 A.M. AND 2 P.M.; AND SUNDAYS, 8 A.M. AND 5 P.M. THE PROGRAM IS ALSO STREAMED ON THE WIST WEB SITE.