Carnival pageantry — from massive floats to ornate costumed royalty — formally begins this week with the krewes of Oshun and Cleopatra rolling Uptown. But smaller, dedicated DIY krewes are taking to the streets to give the Carnival season a more offbeat toast — maybe with a glass poured by masquerading wine worshippers. Here is a preview of this week's alt-krewe lineup.
Krewe of Cork
3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21
Royal Street between St. Peter and Toulouse streets
Former grand marshals include vintners Clovis Taittinger, Robert Mondavi Jr. and Kathy Benziger. Devotees come from California, Champagne, France, and beyond for this three-day marathon that begins with a port dinner on Wednesday night at the JW Marriott (614 Canal St.) and ends at the Libation Ball at the Royal Sonesta (300 Bourbon St.) after the parade. The after-party includes a buffet, live music and bottomless pours of eight wines. Tickets are $75.
8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22
St. Ferdinand and N. Peters streets
"We don't call them floats, we call them contraptions," says Space Commander and head of the krewe Ryan Ballard. He'll be at the front of the crowd in a lunar party rover. "It's basically an exact copy of the Apollo 17, but with crazy disco lights, an amazing sound system, projectors and air raid sirens," he says. "It's kind of the coolest thing I've ever built."
A parade highlight is the "The Mecca-Gator," a giant robotic alligator that breathes fire (pending city approval) and stomps on a miniature New Orleans. The 750-member krewe will land at The Trash Palace (2121 Chartres St.) for a bacchanal complete with four bands and a laser show. Tickets are $15, or $10 for those in costume.
Krewe of 'tit Rex Parade
5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22
St. Roch Avenue and N. Robertson Street
Bigger isn't always better. At least that's the idea behind Krewe of 'tit Rex. The krewe parades with itty-bitty floats as intricate as its well-known counterparts, but a fraction of the size. "We got the idea, because a lot of people from New Orleans had to make little floats out of shoeboxes as kids," says 'tit Rex President Jeremy Yuslum. "They get really excited when they come to the parade."
The U.S. Constitution inspires this year's theme "We The People." About 30 floats will roll in front of St. Roch Tavern (1200 St. Roch Ave.) in Bywater. Among them will be "Me The People," a mockery of modern narcissism covered in miniature selfies and iPhones, and "We The Peeple," a celebration of marshmallow Peeps. For throws, the krewe made miniature beads, bead bags, purses and dolls.
The parade makes its way to the AllWays Lounge (2240 St. Claude Ave.) for the Ping Pong Ball. At the bash, the floats will be presented onstage in the "Gallery of Smalls" and MC Sweet Tea will perform. Tickets $10
2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23
Louis Armstrong Park, N. Rampart Street and Orleans Avenue
As in past years, Olivier expects big groups of the same breed to show up in style together. "It's pretty amazing when you see a whole bunch of greyhounds or Great Danes," she says. Each pooch must register ahead of time. The krewe recommends owners sign up online or show up early Sunday morning. The parade will end at Louis Armstrong Park, where there will be drinks, live music and plenty of space for playing. Registration and party begin at 10:30 a.m. Membership is $40-$50 for one dog and escort.