Officially the Carnival season begins the 12th night after Christmas when a King Cake, with a baby doll or bean, is presented to guests at everything from a backyard party to a grand ball. The recipient of the doll or bean was the king or queen of the evening and, in my home, that king or queen hosted the next party. On and on it went until the stroke of midnight Mardi Gras night when Lent began.
The cake tradition originated in Europe and quickly found favor in New Orleans, a city known for celebrating. Later entire organizations, called krewes, paraded around the city beginning on January 6th.
In 1872, one such group was called the School of Design, Rex, and in many ways has become the standard bearer for all paraders. To honor the 150th Anniversary of Rex, the Louisiana State Museum has assembled floats, designs, costumes and glittering jewelry under the roof of The Presbytere for a specular exhibition that will continue into December of this year.
For a few lucky 350, the gala held January 29th was a meeting of many courts. Co-chaired by Christian Brown, J. Storey Charbonnet, William Hines and Hunter Pierson, working with the museum’s steering committee of Murray A. Calhoun, Ben Dupuy, T. Semmes Favrot and Philip Hodges, it was a splendid affair. The museum’s Wayne Phillips, head of Costumes, Collections and Textiles, and Dr. Stephen Hales, historian and archivist of the Rex organization, Rex 2017 and author, curated the exhibition. The oldest living monarch, Erik F. Johnsen was honored and acknowledged as His Majesty’s Court Sponsor.
Wandering throughout the galleries, rooms and dining areas were people interwoven by family, marriage and friendship. There were Reisses, Freemans, Kellehers, Westfeldts, Slosses, Poitevents, Roddys, Duncans, Brights, Browns, Whites, Geldermans, Redds, and a smiling Melissa Douglas Steiner, president of the LSMF board.
Should the Rex exhibition not be enough Carnival for you, walk on over to The Historic New Orleans Collection which is filled to the rafters with goodies from other organizations, walking groups and the like.