One good weekend of Mardi Gras parades deserves another is what I, Rex Duke®, always say. So let's catch our breath and get ready for another big flurry of crowns and costumes, cups and beads, and colorful floats. There is plenty to take in during the final week of Mardi Gras. The treats are great and small, from glittery Zulu coconuts to Endymion's Extravaganza in the Superdome. It's the culmination of endless hours of dedication by marching bands, artists, krewe members and the countless people who get the parades rolling. Rex Duke hopes everyone is as honored as I am to observe the festivities.
Here you have my final set of previews with parade themes, maps and schedules. Enjoy the parades, greet the kings and queens, pocket some doubloons, cheer the bands, and check the Feb. 12 issue of Gambit Weekly to see my final tally of parade highlights and performances.
Until then, on with the show.
Wednesday, January 30
Location: West Bank
Theme: Cleopatra Presents Bits and Pieces of the Past
Queen: Danielle W. Champagne
Throws: Queen's cups, key-chains, shoe-and-purse necklaces, logo balls and frisbees
The all-female crew of Cleopatra commemorates 35 years with a tribute to its past. Each float represents one of Cleopatra's previous themes, such as 'Queens and Enchantresses," 'Whirl of Pearls," 'I could have danced all night," 'I'll see you in my dreams" and 'Girls Just Wanna have fun." Look for key-chains and girly shoe-and-purse necklace throws so you can have your own bits and pieces to keep as mementos.
Theme: Heroes of Fact and Fiction
King: Jake Romano
Queen: Linda Patin
Throws: Fibreoptic beads, aluminum doubloons, cups, medallion beads
Pygmalion honors heroes from Superman to the Heroes of Katrina, including police and firefighters of New Orleans. Look for a maid whose collar bears the NOPD and New Orleans Fire Department's logos. Real-life heroines include Susan B. Anthony. The young krewe promises an inspiring night along the parade route.
Throws: Tenth anniversary bead, special black doubloons
The mysterious Ancient Druids take to the streets with dark wit and satirical themes. Out of reverence for some old-line krewe traditions, the group doesn't announce the parade theme in advance and never reveals the identity of the Archdruid. Members wear druid robes and in honor of the Druids' 10th anniversary, there are special beads.
Theme: Nights on Broadway
King: Peter Rau
Queen: Madison Rau
Throws: Beads, cups
Thor takes his mighty hammer and lightning to the marquees of Broadway. Floats depict popular shows from the Great White Way, including Damn Yankees, Miss Saigon and Peter Pan. It's a big night out on the town for the family friendly Metairie krewe.
Thursday, January 31
Knights of Babylon
King Sargon: Secret
Queen: Rebecca Montgomery
Throws: Jester doll, jester bead, jester wand
The Knights of Babylon revere beauty and tradition. The theme " often recalling classic literature or art " is revealed at parade time, but the identity of the monarch Sargon never is. Viewers can expect a spectacle of beauty and light worthy of the ancient hanging gardens of Babylon. The parade will feature mounted officers and flambeaux.
Knights of Chaos
Throws: Doubloons and theme and float-related items
The Knights of Chaos are satirists of the highest disorder. Last year the group unleashed the uproarious parade theme 'Chaos Breaks Wind," satirizing Katrina recovery debacles. Members ride beautifully decorated traditional (read: modest-sized) floats. Expect clever throws to match the floats' individual titles.
Throws: Rubix cube bead, high-heeled lip-gloss bead, glitter powder puff, light-up lava lamp key chain, Muses beaded headband, hand-decorated glitter shoes
Which Muse inspired satire? That might have been the result of all nine collaborating if this all-women krewe is any indication. Partially inspired by the Muse streets of the Lower Garden District, this krewe is better known for its love of shoes, crazy colored wigs, closets full of special throws and its satirical wit. When this parade finally rolls, it should have people dancing in the streets.
Friday, February 1
Throws: 2008 themed light-up beads, triple medallion beads with the Hermes crest and winged boot beads in gold and silver
After naming Hermes 'Best Night Parade" and 'Best Overall Parade" last year, Rex Duke® has high expectations for this year. And could there be a better icon for Mardi Gras than the krewe's new signature float 'Garden of Earthly Delights?" The parade's theme remains a secret until it rolls, but expect the large krewe's procession to include mounted riders and a wealth of throws.
Throws: Plush high priest, blinking skull-head logo beads, blinking high priest beads
The Krewe d'Etat has revolutionized Carnival. The group is led by 'The Dictator" but his identity is never revealed. The Mardi Gras rebels revel in satire but are quite reverent about other traditions, like having flambeaux and mounted riders.
King: Doug Drufner
Queen: Jean Turner Drufner
Throws: Krewe footballs, medallions, doubloons, cups
The Krewe of Aquila doesn't announce its parade theme until its ball. But viewers can expect to see the group's lavish collars and headpieces, made by krewe members. Riders throw many krewe-insignia items.
Theme: Crescent City Dreams
King: Jerry McGaughey
Queen: Gwen Goudeau
Throws: Stuffed moon toys, doubloons and special captain's doubloons, cups and medallion beads
Morpheus, the God of Dreams, will conjure picturesque reveries of all your favorite New Orleans pastimes and memories, from childhood days at City Park's Storyland to Christmas on Canal Street. In a dream come true at Carnival, Times-Picayune writer Jim Derry and his fiancée will marry before the parade and then ride on the 'Let's Get Married" float. Morpheus continues to grow and throw an ever wider array of krewe-inspired plush toys.
Saturday, February 2
Theme: N.O.M.T.O.C.'s World Tour
King: Sen. Edwin R. Murray
Queen: Racquel Cheatham
Throws: Blinking beads, 32-ounce mug, jug-man stuffed doll, key-chains
New Orleans Most Talked Of Club takes a world tour this year. The floats offer a quick stop in 'Wine Country" and at the 'Eiffel Tower." N.O.M.T.O.C. supports local high schools and allows two students from each high school with a marching band in the parade to ride for free.
Theme: Give My Regards to Broadway
King: Dr. Carlos J. Rivera
Queen: Dr. Jayne Finkowski-Rivera
Throws: Broadway beads, lighted wands that play music, feathered leis, Iris medallion ceramic beads with matching bracelets
Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow, will stage a colorful array of Broadway shows this Saturday. Brush up on showtunes and singalong with floats representing Cats, Camelot, and many more. The largest of Carnival's all-women krewes, Iris gives its proper regards to Broadway in its traditional opera gloves and masks.
Theme: Tuck's Tops Faughty, and is Still Naughty
King: Russell Shearer
Queen: Lyn Kieltyka
Throws: Toilet plungers, Tucks plastic toilets, Tucks dolls, panties and bras, cozies
If the secret to aging is a good sense of humor, then Tucks may be ageless, even with its arsenal of gags and potty humor. The King's throne is, of course, a giant toilet seat. Expect a ruckus from the 'Animal House" float, and the wails of Chewbacca courtesy of guest Peter Mayhew, who played the Wookie in the original Star Wars trilogy. Celebrity guests also include grand marshall Chris Meloni of Law and Order and local radio host Spud McConnell.
Theme: Endymion Salutes Rudyard Kipling
Grand Marshall: Kevin Costner
Queen: Bethany Nicole Burst
Throws: Endymion medallions, blinking beads, celebrity cups with Kevin Costner's likeness
Endymion returns to Mid-City this year with grand marshal Kevin Costner's assurance 'If you parade there, they will come." The Field of Dreams (and Waterworld) star will actually be playing music with his band Modern West. The Extravaganza at the Superdome includes the Doobie Brothers and pop queens from the '80s, the Go-Gos. Along the route, expect the krewe's mega, multiple-trailer signature floats like Capt. Eddie's S.S. Endymion.
Theme: Nights to Remember
King: Frank H. Renaudin IV
Queen: Tiffany Brown Renaudin
Throws: Chee Wees, Isis genie dolls, krewe coloring books, fly-swatters
The largest and oldest all-female organization on Metairie's East Bank is hosting not just one, but many nights to remember. It's your best shot of going to 'Prom Night" again. Other special occasions honored by floats include Twelfth Night and twists like 'Southern Nights." So get your cameras ready and make sure this year's parade is a night to remember. Isis also is bringing back krewe insignia Chee-wees.
Theme: Signs of the Zodiac
King: Nathan Ales
Queen: Nicole Cosse Crossen
Throws: Wooden letter beads, medallion cups, Frisbees, plush Kojis
This February isn't just for Aquarians. Napoleon celebrates all the signs in the zodiac, each with its own float. Check your horoscope and see if it's your lucky day to catch Napoleon's wooden beads. Members of the Krewe of Jason will ride as guests of the Corps de Napoleon, so look extra hard for Kojis, Jason's purple, green and gold stuffed plush dragons.
Sunday, February 3
Theme: Back to the Future
King: Dow Straumueller
Queen: Alexandria Catsulis
Throws: Purple, green, and gold beads, stuffed animals
The Krewe of Okeanos believes that to rebuild New Orleans you gotta look back to move forward. With float themes 'At the Zoo," 'Streetcar" and 'Fine Dining," Okeanos celebrates all the things that make New Orleans unique. The simple purple, green and gold bead throws are a testament to Mardi Gras tradition.
King: Chad Renton
Queen: Elizabeth Rushing
Throws: Coozies, vinyl footballs, stuffed animals inscribed with 'Thoth"
Thoth stands for nothing if not tradition. It's one of the few krewes to maintain a historic route in Uptown, including a beginning leg on State and Magazine streets. This years's theme is dedicated to many other locales and their traditions. There's "Carnival in Venice," "Christmas in New York" and Florida's "Gasparilla Festival."
Theme: 75 Years Written in Foil
King: Harold Ilg
Queen: Kelsey Leigh Jarrett
Throws: New redesigned Mid-City potato chip bags
The Krewe of Mid-City celebrates 75 years with its first new float since 1974, a 50-rider float. Mid-City lost all its floats in the storm and has rebuilt all but six. Known for children's themes and the motto 'Pour la Joie de Vivre" (for the joy of living), Mid-City features floats titled 'Fairy Tales," 'If the Shoe Fits" and 'Think Happy Thoughts." This year's procession ends with the first double-decker foiled float, 'Happily Ever After."
Theme: Bacchus Celebrates 40 Years of Fun
Bacchus XL: Hulk Hogan
Throws: Medallion beads, blinking beads, 40th anniversary footballs, stuffed plush crawfish
Bacchus celebrates 40 years by looking back at the past four decades with floats themed 'Movies of the Late '60s," ''70s Fads and Fashions" and '1980s Pop Culture." The family of signature floats, including Bacchasaurus, Bacchagator, Bacchawhoppa and the Kong trio, welcomes a new member, Bacchamore, this year. Hulk Hogan reigns as Bacchus XL. Expect a slew of signature anniversary throws.
Monday, February 4
Theme: Realms of Enchantment
Throws: Pearls, plush fish, 'God of the Sea" coozies
Travel to 'The Land of the Frost Giant," 'The Kingdom of the Gnomes" and other realms of enchantment with this year's Proteus parade. In honor of the namesake God of the Sea, the krewe will throw plush fish toys. The king, whose identity is never revealed, rides in the krewe's signature seashell throne. One of Carnival's oldest krewes, it follows old-line customs with classic smaller floats, flambeaux carriers and riding officers.
Theme: Cocktails Concoctions
Throws: Orpheus beads, Leviathan medallions
There's plenty to toast in this year's Orpheus procession, including many celebrity guests. They include Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa, New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and American Idol Finalist Josh Gracin. The mix of floats serves up 'White Russian," 'Bloody Mary," 'Mint Julep" and more. Orpheus features large and beautiful floats including signature ones like Smoky Mary, the Trojan Horse and Leviathan.
Theme: Capitals of the World
King: Charles Laborde
Queen: Daniele Cecilia Wilson
Throws: Fibreoptic beads, polystone beads with themed medallions.
Down from Mt. Olympus, Zeus takes viewers on a tour of major capitals from this world, stopping everywhere from Washington, D.C. to Pretoria, South Africa. The krewe will be throwing polystone medallions of historic sites and monuments from each featured capital city, like London's Big Ben and Paris' Eiffel Tower. Riders also will toss the signature toy lightning bolts.
Tuesday, February 5,
Theme: World of Legends, Heroes and Folklores
King: Frank Boutte
Queen: Jocelyn Boutte
Throws: Handkerchiefs, coconuts, beads
Zulu explores history, myths, secrets and the popular beliefs associated with the group and its namesake African tribe. The procession rolls with a full complement of Zulu characters including the royalty, Soulful Warriors, the Big Shot, Witch Doctor, Ambassador, Province Prince and Mr. Big Stuff. There will be a bounty of signature throws and, of course, the glittery Zulu coconut.
Theme: Royal Rivers
Throws: Streetcar medallions, Boeuf Gras medallions, Frisbees
From the Mississippi to the Nile, Rex will go with the flow this year. Floats depict the rivers of the world, from the cradle of civilization (the Tigris and Euphrates) to rustic Acadiana (Atchafalaya). Signature floats include the Boeuf Gras, the Royal Barge, the Bandwagon and others. The Captain rides a white horse and there is a host of mounted officers.
Theme: A Few of My Favorite Things
King: Bruce Degler
Queen: Kristin Nielsen
Throws: Blinking sunglasses, fleur de lis stuffed plush hound dogs
Julie Andrews and John Coltrane couldn't have said it better. Argus parades with a few of its favorite things, though they range considerably, from Birthdays to Gambling. Special guests include The Saintsations, NBC newsperson Hoda Kotb and weatherman Al Roker. The signature Harry Leesiana float will be back but with new Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand riding.
Theme: Let Us Entertain You
King: Dale Strohmeyer
Queen: Jan Brien
Throws: Emblem cups and 3D krewe medallions
Grela entertains by bringing Broadway to the West Bank. Floats are named for popular musicals like Showboat, Phantom of the Opera and Cats. Special guest Clarence 'Frogman" Henry and his band will offer a little local flavor. Gretna Mayor Ronnie Harris rides as Grand Marshal.