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Passing Parades

      A month from now, if we think about Mardi Gras we will wonder what happened to it. The season's early date has made the time pass so quickly. Luckily, a year from now Mardi Gras will be February 28, so we will be able to live with it longer. 

      Ready or not, the big crush of parades begins this weekend. Since you probably do not have time to see them all, here are my recommendations for the first weekend:  


Saturday, January 30, St. Charles route, 1 p.m.


Krewe of Pontchartain

      Nothing extravagant about this parade, but it is a worthy starter for the parade season. For the last several years the float theme has centered around some sort of word game – with each float a part of the puzzle. It is a well-disciplined krewe with maskers who stay masked and a good mix of bands.

      As long as you’re there:

      Choctaw (recently relocated from the West Bank) and Freret (recently revived) follow along the same route. If you want to make a day of it, find a spot and watch the passing parades. Freret, named after the nearby street, brings back the memory of a former krewe and certainly is reflective of the revival along that street.


Knights of Sparta

      This is easily the first weekend’s best night parade. Sparta has an appreciation and elements of the old style parades. The krewe even owns ten flambeaux torches, which are believed to be similar in origin to the early Comus flambeaux. The mule drawn King’s float is a spectacular sight. The captain (who is one of Carnival’s most active participants) is, by tradition followed, by a shadow captain – a younger man who represents continuity. The parade itself is always well organized.

      As long as you’re there

      Pygmalion follows Sparta along the same route. The krewe has good bands and nice floats early in the parade – although it does have a preponderance of less exciting maids floats later in the march. Nevertheless, it is an adequate nightcap for the evening.

In Metairie:

      Carnival as been struggling in this parish, but one of the steady krewes has been Caesar, which is arguably Jefferson Parish’s best parade. To its credit, Jefferson has eliminated some of the deadwood among parades. There will likely be better days ahead.


 Sunday, January 31, St. Charles route. Noon


Krewe of Carrollton:

      This venerable krewe was the first of a generation of 1920-30’s groups to expand participation in Carnival. There is nothing splashy about this krewe, but it is steady and runs a reliable parade. The krewe owns its own floats. Once a mainstay on the Canal Street route, Carnival in New Orleans, for generations of people, began with the Carrollton parade.

      As long as you’re there:

      Preceding Carrollton, along the same route, is the second year Krewe of Femme Fatale, a predominantly black all female group. Fatale is followed by the Krewe of King Arthur and Merlin and then Alla, once the dominant parade on the West Bank. Arthur and Merlin have nice Camelot themed floats, mostly early in the parade, that were seen two days earlier in Metairie as the Krewe of Excalibur. Merlin continues his magical transformations.


      By Sunday night you might be exhausted from parades, so rest well. Over the next nine days carnival will reach its apex. The party is just getting started. Ash Wednesday, when it comes, will seem like such a relief.





BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book web sites.




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