Rex Duke, the world's first and foremost Mardi Gras parade critic, previews the second week of local Carnival parades. Greetings, all ye who live for this special pre-Lenten season of fun and frivolity! Carnival is shifting into high gear now as we near that most holy of grails -- Fat Tuesday. Enjoy all the hard work of the krewes who have overcome all kinds of adversity and loss wreaked by the dastardly Katrina to once again stage first-rate parades replete with all the artistry and finery to which this city has been accustomed for more than a century and a half.
Hail to those hearty souls who endeavor to navigate every parade route they can to collect as many different prized trinkets tossed and pelted by masked riders on floats. Blessed are those who can stretch for the most treasured doubloons and medallion beads without missing the beauty of the floats that craftspeople have labored for a year to create, and we applaud those who can do all this without spilling their favored libation on their parade-going neighbors.
I, Rex Duke, the world's foremost Mardi Gras parade critic, have supplied you with previews of all the parades, along with easy-to-read maps of the routes to help you plan your Carnival strategy. I also will take notes about the processions and krewes' execution of Carnival traditions, and will pass judgment on each parade in the Feb. 27 issue of Gambit Weekly. Whether you are experiencing the parades from a ladder perch or atop a float, enjoy it all, and by all means Throw Me Somethin', Mister!
Wednesday, February 14
Throws: Cups, doubloons, medallion beads and heart-shaped beads in honor of Valentine's Day
Keeping things close to the vest and traditional, all members of this 9-year-old krewe wear identical costumes during the parade. The group spices things up with a secret theme, heart-shaped beads, the swinging Marine Corps band, and new float called "The Coven."
Theme: "Circus World"
King: Dan Civello
Queen: Angelle Hasson
Throws: A variety of traditional Mardi Gras throws
Thor is the god of thunder, and this large Metairie krewe plans to make the parade route rain with goodies. Rolling strong with 600 members, bands will include East Jefferson High, West Jefferson High, several dance teams and, of course, Al Copeland's boats, trucks and various other grownup toys.
Thursday, February 15
Theme: Secret until the parade
King Sargon: Secret
Throws: Jester beads, Knights of Babylon footballs, plush jester dolls.
With plenty of themed throws, this parade promises to be an extravagant affair. Rolling since 1939, this krewe owns all its floats, including classics like the signature "Hanging Gardens of Babylon." Be sure to check for the flambeaux and the unveiling of Sargon, the krewe's monarch.
Knights of Chaos
Theme: Secret until parade
Throws: Medallions, cups, whoopee cushions, baseball-type cards depicting each float with its theme description, a Chaos original last year
The Knights of Chaos stage a very traditional night parade with floats built on 130-year-old wooden-wheel cotton wagons that have been used in parades since the late 1800s. The procession features flambeaux and lieutenants on horseback led by the group's captain on a white stallion. The theme is always satirical, with barbs directed at local and state politicians and events.
Throws: Lots of new throws including hand-decorated glitter shoes, plush spears, stuffed animals, beads with game medallions, collapsible binoculars hanging from beads, Muses makeup, satin sleep masks and more.
Floats will include a giant shoe "Bathing Muses" bathtub float and the annual "Muses and Sirens" floats. There are always lots of unique throws. Watch for Giant Flying Shoe Puppets.
Friday, February 16
Theme: "Visions of Valhalla"
King: Secret until day of the parade
Queen: Secret until day of the parade
Throws: Cups and Hermes beads with blue light-up fleur de lis.
The Friday night kick-off before Fat Tuesday returns in style this year with traditional floats designed by Royal Arts. The procession also will feature the krewe's captain on a white horse, flambeaux and 15 marching bands.
Throws: Specialty light-up beads, including lighted logo head, improved lighted cube, coin beads and cups.
This 11-year-old satirical krewe is rowdy, but knows a thing or two about the need for order. It has no court but is ruled by a dictator who remains secret until the day of the parade. Krewe d'Etat is back with its full stock of 21 floats and will entertain the crowd with 11 marching bands and the beautiful Budweiser Clydesdales.
Theme: "Aquila's Fright Night"
King: Richard Enright
Queen: Wendy Enright
Throws: Footballs, medallion beads, cups, doubloons
Aquila, Latin for "eagle," prides itself on its patriotism, and, as their founder and captain Adam Mehn puts it, "There's nothing more patriotic and powerful than the United State's bald eagle." Mehn says because the symbol can be either male or female, it works well for his co-ed krewe. Maybe this kind of thinking extends to the theme. There will be plenty of floats to scare you, from the masculine "Frankenstein" to the feminine "Witches." Plus, who knows what gender lies below with "Under the Sea Monsters?"
Theme: "Dreams of Carnivale"
King: Ray Anderson
Queen: Carla Nesbit
Throws: Cups, medallion beads, stuffed moons and plush toys
Morpheus, the god of dreams, caps a big night of Uptown parades. Morpheus celebrates a different kind of carnival, with circus- and sideshow-themed floats. The parade will include 10 marching bands and the signature captain's float, "Temple of Morpheus," a regular attraction.
Knights of Jason
Theme: What do you like to do?
King: Chris Dufrene
Queen: Karen Carlson
Throws: Koji, the Knights of Jason dragon
When asked what they liked to do, krewe members responded with some quirky float ideas. Parade floats will all revel in representations of someone's ideal activity -- from "Have an Ice Cold Beer," to "Watch the Saints Win" to "Ride with the Easter Bunny and Jason." The Venue is sponsoring a float that will carry surprise guest recording artists and possibly cast-members from MTV's "Pimp my Ride." Also, look for a one-of-a-kind Ferrari SUV.
Saturday, February 17
Location: West Bank
Theme: "NOMTOC's Monster Mash"
King: Lumas Jerome Rose Jr.
Queen: Telair Lynese Gilson
Throws: Ceramic banks, brown jug medallion beads, lighted beads
New Orleans' Most Talked of Club (N.O.M.T.O.C.) will bring movie monsters and creepy crawlers to the West Bank. Featured creatures include King Kong, insect and dinosaur floats. Besides local high school bands, Baton Rouge's State Leadership Band will join the procession.
Theme: "Under the Big Top"
King: Cmdr. Richard A. Williams
Queen: Dr. Janet Deare Williams
Throws: Medallion beads, wands, rainbow fiberoptic beads, doubloons, circus-themed beads, toy elephants
It's girls gone wild, sort of, with Iris this year. The all-women krewe presents a circus full of wild animals, lion tamers, clowns and other things found under the big top. Iris is the largest and longest-running all-female krewe and adheres to traditions including wearing masks and opera-length gloves.
Theme: "Tucks Knows What it Means to Miss New Orleans"
King: Laurent "Larry" Moecklin
Queen: Lauren Moecklin
Throws: Squirting toilets, printed toilet paper, coloring puzzle with colored pencils, whistles
Irreverent as always, Tucks returns with its usual run of potty humor and some fun innuendo with floats heralding "12 Inches of Paradise," "Bendover Construction Company" and "Hip Shaken King Creole." For the family crowd, some riders will throw unique color-it-yourself puzzles to kids.
Theme: "Endangered and Extinct Species"
Grand Marshall: Taylor Hicks
Queen: Virginia Lizbeth Cooney
Throws: Large variety of long beads, a variety of special throws with the krewe's emblem, lighted beads, plush toys and more
Endymion is an extravaganza from start to finish with super floats, tandem floats and heavy-throwing riders. It finishes in the Superdome with musical guests including Styx, Journey and Al Green. The parade features signature floats like "Capt. Eddie's S.S. Endymion" and the title float.
Theme: "Memories are Forever"
King: Christopher Fausto Araujo
Queen: Angela Dickens Westbrook
Throws: Cheewees with the Isis logo, special doubloons thrown from king's float
Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Isis members will ride on 20 floats, each reminiscent of a past year's theme. Many popular throws support local businesses, and Isis is the only krewe to throw locally produced Cheewees, which were special ordered to display the Isis logo.
Sunday, February 18
Theme: "Children's Stories"
King: Micheal O'Shello
Queen: Heather Schwab
Throws: Logo beads, Frisbees, cups
Okeanos' 59th parade is sure to be popular with the youngest of revelers, with a theme of "Children's Stories." Featured characters and fairy tale floats include "Mickey Mouse," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Goldilocks."
Theme: "We the People"
King: Dr. Tim Melancon
Queen: Maureen Elizabeth Homburg
Throws: Footballs, medallion beads
Celebrating its 60th year, Thoth follows its traditional route, starting Uptown among the hospitals that earned the organization the nickname "Krewe of Shut-ins." Thoth's massive procession celebrates major events in American history, and signature floats include "High Priestess of Thoth," designed to reflect the Egyptian lore from which the krewe takes its name.
Location: West Bank
Theme: "Dat '70s Sheaux starring Adonis"
Adonis IX: Anthony Dazet
Adonis IX: Donna Bays
Throws: Krewe cups and Adonis plush toys
Although Adonis was the god of vegetation, rebirth and fertility, he was also rather easy on the eyes. So Adonis flirting with show business is a perfect parade theme for the young Olympian. Floats for this parade include "Adonis at Disney World in the Making," "Adonis Makes it to Hollywood" and "Adonis Meets Wolfman Jack." Stuffed Adonis figures are a new addition to this year's throws.
Krewe of Mid-City
King: Dr. Edward Campbell IV
Queen: Tiffany Lambert
Throws: stuffed animals, Zapps potato chips, Frisbees, logo beads
According to one krewe member, this year's Mid-City parade is all about "delicious things portrayed in foil." Floats like "Angel's Food," "Chocoholic" and "Twix and Treats" will showcase delicacies that often come wrapped in foil. Mid-City rolls with its unique foil-decorating tradition as it continues to rebuild after some floats were put out of commission by Katrina.
Theme: "Through the Eyes of a Child"
Bacchus XXXIX: James Gandolfini
Throws: Medallion beads, themed images from each float
Inspired by animated children's movies, Bacchus floats run the gamut from "Chicken Run" to "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius." King Bacchus XXXIX, James Gandolfini of The Sopranos, will open the parade flanked by riding lieutenants with helmet medallion throws. Signature floats like "Bacchasaurus," "Boccawhoppa," "King Kong," "Queen Kong" and "Baby Kong" will roll as usual.
Theme: "Cirque du Napoleon"
King: Dr. Edward Wood
Queen: Mignon LeBreton
Throws: Napoleon dolls, cups, coasters, medallion beads
"Dancing Bears" and "Wild West" are just two of the floats rolling with Napoleon in this year's circus-themed extravaganza. The procession will include 10 marching bands, five jazz ensembles and five ladies groups as well as 19 floats.
Monday, Feb. 19
Theme: "Legends and Lore of the Deep"
Throws: Lighted beads, authentic glass beads, plush fish, medallion beads
The krewe traditionally employs underwater and Louisiana folklife themes to honor its namesake's persona, Proteus, shepherd of the sea. This year, undersea creatures will dominate floats. Twelve marching bands, many from out of state, will parade along with 35 flambeaux, 25 riding lieutenants and traditional New Orleans jazz bands.
Theme: "Tales of Translation"
King: Sean Payton
Queen: Patricia Clarkson
Throws: Light-up beads, plush animals, large specialty beads
Known for its ornate mega-floats and generous riders, Harry Connick Jr.'s parade is a crowd favorite. This year, Orpheus will be led by Oscar-winning actress and New Orleans native Patricia Clarkson and Saints head coach Sean Payton. Look for "Smokey Mary," a double-decker supersized train float, the signature "Trojan horse" and "Leviathan."
Theme: "This is My Country"
King: Michael Kavanaugh
Queen: Michelle McIntyre
Throws: 50th anniversary black doubloons, cups with scenes of America
For its 50th anniversary parade, the krewe of Zeus has minted its first black doubloons. Expect plenty of out-of-town marching bands for the patriotic party, and red, white and blue cups with scenes of America tossed from floats including "Declaration of Independence," "Mt. Rushmore" and "Gulf Coast."
Tuesday, February 20
Theme: "Zulu in the Wonders of Life, Fantasy and Nature"
King: Larry A. Hammond
Queen: Lillian P. Hammond
Throws: Painted coconuts, medallion beads depicting the parade theme
The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club supplies parade goers with one of the rarest Mardi Gras collectibles, the Zulu coconut. First seen in the 1910 Zulu parade, when natural, hairy coconuts were thrown from floats, these prizes have evolved into beautifully decorated collectibles. Coconuts no longer can be tossed into the crowds, so come early and try charming one away from a club member.
Theme: "The Lunar Realm"
King: Secret until day of parade
Queen: Secret until day of parade
Throws: Rex doubloons and beads
International stories, myths and images inspired by the moon thread together the 2007 King of Carnival parade within the theme "The Lunar Realm." Floats include "Ix Chel," the Mayan goddess of the moon; "Annigan," the moon god of Greenland Inuits; and "Werewolf" from folklore. Traditional floats include "Boeuf Gras" and "Streetcar Named Desire."
Theme: "Buddy Stall's Louisiana"
King: Frank Larre
Queen: Treva Lincoln
Throws: Stuffed pelicans and fleur de lis, black and gold Saints doubloons
Local historian Buddy Stall inspired this year's Louisiana-pride theme, led by Al Copeland. "Louisiana Purchase" and "Pelican" are featured floats, along with a giant bobble-head of Buddy Stall. Four high school bands and 25 musical units will perform, and a few members of the Saints are expected to ride.
Location: West Bank
Theme: "Grela Celebrates 60 Years of Mardi Gras"
King: Robert Mayville
Queen: Geraldine Mayville
Throws: Various krewe emblem cups
It's a big anniversary year for one of Jefferson Parish's oldest krewes. Grela looks back at 60 years of parading.
Location: West Bank
Theme: "Choctaw Visits Horror Movies"
Chief: Ernie Elfer Jr.
Princess: Bridget Vincent Holt
Throws: Logo spears, logo footballs, themed and logo Frisbees
Choctaw's new captain's float will debut this Mardi Gras, part of a plan to add new floats in coming years. New logo spears and footballs will be prized throws this year, as well as horror movie-themed signature Frisbees.