When Venus Rolled
The Krewe of Venus’ unique history
The Krewe of Venus Queen’s float at Gallier Hall, February 24, 1963. The krewe’s theme that year was “Command Performance.” The Krewe of Venus was busy in the ’60s, often holding repeat summer balls for conventioneers. A highlight of that era was a Mardi Gras-themed cruise to Hawaii in September 1961, featuring a replay of their Carnival ball on way over and the way back, as well as one at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
Photo provided courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library.
While the Krewe of Les Mysterieuses, which debuted in 1896, was the first female Carnival organization, it wasn’t until 1941 that women were able to parade in the newly formed Krewe of Venus.
Organizational meetings started in 1940, and a Sunday afternoon parade time was set to accommodate employed women who wished to participate. The inaugural parade and ball, held at Municipal Hall, took place on February 23, ’41. Founding captain Aminthe Nungesser led the krewe of 125 ladies, mostly local businesswomen who were able to afford the krewe costs, on 12 floats rented from the Krewe of Babylon. The theme, “Goddesses,” was kept secret until the parade day, proving, according to a Times-Picayune writer in ’41, “that women can keep a secret.”
The parade day was very rainy, but it wasn’t just water falling; some protestors, not ready for women to enter the men’s world of parading, threw eggs and tomatoes, as well as a few choice words, at the riders. But the Venus members remained upbeat, and even though World War II put Mardi Gras on pause for four years immediately after that inaugural ride, they were back on the streets in 1946 when Carnival returned. By ’58, they were known as one of Carnival’s most beautiful parades.
Venus debuted doubloons in 1962, and they featured a different woman every year. There was a series on the Queens of England, and from ’76 on, the doubloons showcased presidential First Ladies.
The Krewe celebrated its 50th anniversary on February 10, 1991. The theme was “Legends in Gold” and queens of past years were presented at the bal masque at the Municipal Auditorium. The parade featured 20 floats, 275 members and 14 marching bands. Unfortunately, citing declines in membership, their last parade rolled in ’92.