Put Away the Bead Bag

One of my missions this Carnival season is to persuade people to be less occupied with catching stuff at parades and to look at the parade itself, particularly among those parades actually worth seeing. I will fail in this mission, of course, but maybe somebody, somewhere will stop and look.

A caveat please: This list does not include the superkrewes: Endymion, Bacchus and Orpheus. They are such beads barrages that you have to wave your hands anyway, if only to protect yourself. All three, though, do have some visually interesting moments, particularly among their signature floats.


Ancient Druids

Wed., Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m.

What I like about this krewe is that it's composed of people involved in other Carnival krewes, giving them a chance to have a responsibility-free parade. Because they're Carnival folks, they know how to do it right. The masking carries an ancient Druids motif; the floats tend to have a light satire. The parade gives an idea of what a well-done vintage parade would have looked like. Instead of a King there's a masked Archdruid who isn't to be messed with.

Why you should look at this? To see what Carnival leadership can do as a unit.


Mystic Krewe of Nyx

Wed., Feb. 11, 7 p.m. 

We’re still waiting to see more. Nyx has had three parades, but the first two were battered by weather. Last year’s rain-free parade showed that this all-female krewe born in the spirit of Muses has potential.

Why you should look at this? To see the star blast of a burgeoning krewe.


Knights of Babylon

Thurs., Feb. 12, 5:45 p.m. 

If you really want to study the evolution of the New Orleans Carnival, this parade, along with Hermes and Proteus, is one that you should watch and take notes. The mysterious King Sargon, whose identity isn't revealed, rules over this krewe that was founded in 1939. The floats are smaller than most krewes, but that's the way they used to be. Generally the theme tells a story, with each float representing a scene. There are also flambeaux as well as mounted lieutenants.

Why should you look at this? To see a classic parade with smaller scale floats and a theme that tells a story.


Knights of Chaos

Thurs., Feb 12, 6:16 p.m. 

Once there was a parade krewe called the Knights of Momus. It first marched on New Year's Eve in 1872, making it one of Carnival’s oldest groups. But then an evil wheel prevailed and Momus stopped parading in 1991. The loss of the parade, which had returned to its earlier practice of doing satire, was enormous. Then through Mardi Grass magic, the ghost of Momus re-appeared in 2000 though with a new name, the Knights of Chaos.

Chaos continues to have the look and style of Momus even using Momus’ old wagon bed. It is a 19th century parade with a 20th century wit.

Why should you look at this? To see an old-style parade with roots to the satirical Carnival.


Krewe of Muses

Thurs., Feb. 12: 6:30 p.m. 

This parade, founded in 2000, isn't the first all-female group, but it's the first non-suburban all-female group to parade at night. Its floats are rather boxy; but Muses is best watched for what's between the floats, mainly many creative walking groups. The float designers do work hard at being satirical and routinely carry it off.

Why should you look at this? To see a krewe that revolutionized Carnival. The opportunity for women was already there, but Muses made the opportunity more exciting and reached out to more people. It has created a whole new group of participants in Carnival.


Krewe of Hermes

Fri., Feb. 13: 6 p.m. 

Year after year this is always one of Carnival’s most beautiful parades. Founded in 1937, the krewe was the first to incorporate electric lights on parade. It is still visually spectacular, expressing the old school of design.

Why should you look at this? To see one of Carnival’s prettiest parades.


Le Krewe d’Etat

Fri., Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m. 

As its clever name suggests, this krewe is all about satire. Just as Chaos will show you the old style of delivering gags, d'Etat will show you Carnival's most modern satirical parade. All the floats are original and packed with jokes. (Some of the most daring stuff is at the back of each float – be sure to look.) Ruled by a Dictator rather than a King, the all-male krewe includes some of its guys as the Dancing Darlings. Look for the krewe’s modern self-made flambeaux.

Why should you look at this? Because it's filled with laughs and visually rich, but you have to pay attention.



Sat., Feb. 14, Noon

There’s an Animal House feel to this krewe, which is more of a confederacy of floats. It can be entertaining.

Why should you look at this? For that irreverent feeling.



Sun., Feb. 15: 11:45 a.m. 

This is one of Carnival’s most beautiful parades. Its generous use of colored foils is a one-of-a-kind. On a pretty day, the sun adds extra dazzle.

Why should you look at this? To see a one-of-a-kind, visually rich parade.



Sun., Feb. 15, Noon 

Watch out: Thoth is growing and getting better. Next to Endymion, it's one of Carnival’s biggest parades in terms of number of riders. The Egyptian motif early in the parade is a favorite.

Why should you look at this? The krewe provides rare vantage points Uptown with its serpentine route through neighborhoods.




Lundi Gras, Feb. 16, 5:15 p.m.

Next to Rex this is Carnival’s oldest surviving parade, founded in 1882. Watch Proteus the same way you would examine a fine piece of art. It is rolling historic preservation. This is what a parade would have looked and  felt like in the 19th century. The Proteus King’s float is a classic,

Why should you look at this? To appreciate the classic Carnival parade.



Mardi Gras, 8 a.m.

Only in Creole New Orleans could black float riders wear black face and it's totally acceptable. (The white riders on board may need a dab or two more.) Zulu is best at the beginning, with the string of floats depicting the various members of the hierarchy including the King and the Witch Doctor. This is a wildly popular parade that's a celebration of New Orleans culture.

Why should you look at this? For the African motif, particularly early in the parade.



Mardi Gras, 10 a.m.

If you’re not in need of oversized floats or not expecting a country singer acting as a Grand Marshall, you should consider Rex. Overall, it just may be Carnival’s best parade; certainly in terms of float design, theme development, bands, efficiency and overall sharpness. The King of Carnival does all things right; that’s a good legacy for any King.

Why should you look at this? Signature floats including the Bandwagon, Butterfly King and Boeuf Gras. Look for the mounted lieutenants dressed in purple, green and gold. Expect a strong military presence this year honoring the Battle of New Orleans.









 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.






 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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