What can you tell us about the Mardi Gras Fountain on the Lakefront?
The Mardi Gras Fountain is one of my favorite Lakefront landmarks, a fixture in the city since 1962. It pays tribute to the city's largest celebration and more than 60 Carnival krewes past and present.
The fountain was the brainchild of "Mr. Mardi Gras" Blaine Kern, who traveled to Europe in the 1950s as a young float builder for the Rex organization and returned from the trip with the idea for the fountain, Kern told Arthur Hardy's Mardi Gras Guide. Kern presented the idea to then-Orleans Levee Board President Gerald Gallinghouse, who convinced his fellow board members to back the project.
The fountain was designed by architects at Favrot & Grimball and built by general contractor Bernard J. Bennett. The budget was $42,000. Surrounding the fountain are more than 60 ceramic tile plaques, each about 2 feet tall and displaying the crests of many of the city's Carnival krewes. Several familiar parades are depicted near the front of the fountain: Comus, Rex, Momus, Proteus, Hermes and Zulu. There also are crests of clubs better known for their Mardi Gras balls, such as Olympians, Dorians and Twelfth Night Revelers. The fountain itself was an attraction. Dancing geysers shot water 30 feet into the air and at night were illuminated in purple, green and gold.
In May 2005, the Orleans Levee Board unveiled $2.5 million worth of repairs to the fountain, inclu- ding new sidewalks, landscaping and enhanced electrical and mechanical systems. The ren- ovation also gave Kern and his team a chance to add plaques for some krewes that didn't exist in 1962, including Bacchus, Endymion, Orpheus and Muses. Hurricane Katrina struck a few months later, shifting the Orleans Levee District's focus elsewhere.
Thanks to $1.3 million from FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Levee District got the fountain going again in 2013, refurbishing the plaques and updating the fountain's mechanical systems.