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Endymion Makes the Turn

Mardi Gras 2013 was still a month or so away, but a never-before-seen maneuver took place along Canal Street that diverted eyes and stopped traffic along the route.

Endymion, master krewe of all things big – including its number of riders – was preparing to reveal a new float which would be Carnival’s longest. The nine-part tandem vehicle would celebrate the old Pontchartrain Beach amusement park. Blinking lights moving rapidly would create the speed sensation of the old Zephyr roller coaster. Different units depicted different scenes, including one that represented the beach’s food. A scent – essence of hamburger (with onions) – was sprayed at the crowd. There would be music and throws and 220 riders, more than the number of some entire parades.

Before the float’s parade debut there were some practical concerns, the biggest being how the 375-foot float would negotiate the turns, the most critical being at N. Carrollton Avenue to Canal Street. Thus, on this quiet night before the Carnival season, there was an unannounced rehearsal. With representatives of the krewe, the police and interested parties looking on, the float would be pulled from Orleans Avenue to Canal, into downtown and then winding its way toward the Superdome.

As the float negotiated the crucial turns, officials walked at its side noting the swing factor, how much space would the big tandem take to make the turn. On parade night, barricades would be spaced at the determined distance so as to allow flow. The rehearsal was a success.

My spot for watching Endymion’s march is near the corner of Canal and S. Scott streets. It is only a few blocks from and within eyesight of the Carrollton turn. On the night of the Endymion parade there was great anticipation for the new float, which would be unlike anything every pulled in a parade anywhere of any type.

Already Endymion had established itself with record-length signature floats (one called “Welcome to New Orleans and the Mardi Gras” and the other the steamboat, like “Captain Eddie’s SS Endymion”) but none would provide as much of a total sensory experience. By the time the new float, which was placed near the end, approached Canal, the parade had been marching for a couple of hours. (The procession is so long that its lead units are often approaching the Superdome destination point just as those at the end are starting to move.)

Those in the crowd could see the big float approaching and began pointing toward it, but then it stopped – and stayed stropped. Something was wrong.

We learned later that while the barricades were correctly placed, the anxious crowd had pushed the barricades in. Some of the float’s units had to be detached, pushed around the corner and then reattached.

Those who create things that are intended to be the biggest and brightest face high risks and occasional setbacks. That comes with believing. The Beach float has made its way successfully in two Carnivals since. Last year Endymion introduced another new float (E-TV) with a video screen, possibly the world’s biggest, from which the crowd could look back at itself.

Brilliant new LED lighting now illuminates the parade, and the ideas  keep flowing. As Endymion moves toward its 50th anniversary it has a lot to be proud of; having to keep the crowds back is surely a measure of success.



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