Endymion Thinks Big
Myths and realities of super krewes
Endymion captain Ed Muniz stands beside one of the Pontchartrain Beach float details that is fashioned after his wife, Peggy.
GREG MILES PHOTOGRAPH
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Mystery surrounds the character of many figures in Greek mythology, and the lad known as Endymion is no exception. Some literary scholars portray him as a handsome shepherd who fathered dozens of children with a moon goddess. Others peg him as a king endowed by Zeus with eternal youth.
Students of mythology generally agree as to Endymion’s physical attributes, but many seem unaware of another, equally important asset: Endymion knew how to have a good time.
For evidence, look no further than the New Orleans Carnival organization that bears his name. The Krewe of Endymion is far from being the oldest Carnival parading organization, but during the 46 years of its existence it has become the largest such group and a leader among dozens of peers.
Every year on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, the krewe rolls out its massive parade of super-sized floats graced by celebrities and a few thousand other riders tossing huge quantities of trinkets to admiring crowds. The parade is a favorite of many Carnival devotees, particularly denizens of Mid-City who line the route that Endymion has traveled on most Saturday nights before Mardi Gras for several decades.
The krewe’s annual “Extravaganza,” held the evening of the Endymion parade, offers not only the spectacle of Mardi Gras finery and frivolity but also big-name entertainers performing exclusively for the party-goers. In terms of overall bigness, Endymion has come to lead the ranks of the organizations known as “super krewes,” and this year is raising the bar.
When the Endymion parade starts rolling on the early evening of Feb. 9, it will feature the largest float ever seen in New Orleans and possibly the world.
Stretching 330 feet, the nine-unit mega-float will carry more than 220 riders and pay tribute to the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park, a popular Lakefront attraction that closed in 1983.
As the parade ends hours later inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the largest single party of Carnival will begin. The Endymion Extravaganza of 2013 is expected to draw 15,000 people for a show and celebration headlined by Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Kelly Clarkson.
The anticipation of the biggest-ever Endymion parade and ball has krewe founder and Captain Ed Muniz marveling over the growth of New Orleans’ signature celebration.
“Mardi Gras is bigger now than it has ever been in my lifetime,” the 72-year-old says.
Endymion has come to lead the ranks of the organizations known as “super krewes,” and this year will feature the largest float ever seen in New Orleans and possibly the world. Stretching 330 feet, the nine-unit mega-float will carry more than 220 riders and pay tribute to the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park (below).
Though Muniz claims Endymion doesn’t aim to one-up other krewes, there’s no question the new float will outsize all others, including the Krewe of Orpheus float called “Smoking Mary,” which Orpheus Captain Sonny Borey says has expanded from six to seven sections and will carry more than 200 riders this year.
Muniz says he had been thinking of how to mark Endymion’s 50th anniversary in 2017. But when the National Football League chose New Orleans to host Super Bowl ’13 and he realized that the game would occur just before Mardi Gras, bringing many thousands of extra visitors to the city, he felt this is the year the krewe should make a bigger-than-ever splash.
Having grown up in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans, Muniz had spent considerable time at Pontchartrain Beach in his youth, and it occurred to him that the park was one of the few local icons Endymion had not yet featured in its parade. He got together with the park’s former owners, the Batt family, who offered photos and memorabilia for designers to use in planning a new float.
Setting the tone for Endymion’s 2013 theme “Ancient Mysteries,” the Pontchartrain Beach float will present replicas of the park’s Zephyr roller coaster, carousel, Ferris wheel, haunted house and “Wild Maus” ride, among other features.
Barry Kern, chief financial officer of float builder Blaine Kern Studios, says the float, designed by the studio’s creative chief Damon Bowie, will also offer a light show the likes of which parade-goers haven’t seen before.
Kern shopped for the technology during one of his regular trips to Hong Kong and says the advanced LED system will illuminate alternately on the float with vintage, carnival-style lighting. The float also incorporates scent-generating technology.
“People are going to see an amusement park on wheels going down the street, and they’re also going to smell popcorn and cotton candy,” he says.
Just as important to the show-stopper’s success is the engineering beneath the float. An “articulated,” or segmented, chassis enables maneuvering on narrow streets and turning corners without interrupting the parade’s flow. The float’s solid rubber tires will squelch fears of flats. And pulling the behemoth – which could top 40 tons when fully loaded with riders and beads – will be a tractor similar to those used to tow Boeing 747 airplanes.
Kern, whose father founded the float-building and entertainment business that has become associated with Mardi Gras around the world, says the Pontchartrain Beach float suits Endymion, which has a history of setting Carnival trends.
“Ed Muniz has been a pioneer in Carnival in terms of always wanting to make his parade and show better,” Kern says.