Krewe of Zulu parade: Before, during and after, all along the avenues (photos)

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Watching the Krewe of Zulu along Orleans Avenue is a study in New Orleans street culture, complete with huge crowds gathering on the streets, along the sidewalks, and up on porches while barbecue pits billow with smoke and speakers blast with music to help along the marching bands that are dotted along the parade.

I had the honor and privilege of helping to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Bunch Club, many of whom are in Zulu, and I also got to interview the Zulu king and queen — both for the New Orleans Advocate. Here are visual highlights the corner of Orleans Avenue and Miro Street, and trots along Esplanade and Claiborne avenues.

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Krewe of Endymion parade sets off from Mid-City (photos)

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What started out as a typically crazy and out-sized Krewe of Endymion parade became a sad night of pain for many parade-goers when a driver plowed into the route at the corner of Carrollton and Orleans avenues in Mid-City on Saturday (Feb. 25).

The parade started out innocently enough, having partially loaded in on Friday to get a head start, and, while many respected the new rule about keeping the neutral ground clear at the outset, plenty others jumped the barricades and enjoyed the fun — not learning until later what had happened further down.

We will share information as we get it, and also add more photos later.

Krewe of Nyx owns Wednesday night, and Ancient Druids (photos)

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Krewe of Nyx is now considered a super-krewe, and the members pretty much proved the point with their “Dancing the Night Away” parade that rolled through Uptown and into the CBD on Wednesday night (Feb. 22), owning the night as well as its preceding, so-called rival, the Ancient Druids.

There’s really no need to rehash Druids, which, while not nearly as offensive as in previous years, still continued its clunky deliver of its version of satire — which included a rather transphobic appraisal of Caitlyn Jenner. (This appeared to pull a page from satire better suited for a 2016 parade, but Druids has rarely been known to keep up with the times.)

Regardless, Nyx rolled behind, saving the best for last. I wasn’t wowed by the parade theme or some of the float execution, but others on social media theorized that Nyx’s emergence has also surprised in quality its most commonly referred-to all-female peer, Muses. You be the judge on this one.

 

 

 

Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade: No bone of contention on a fun day in the French Quarter (photos)

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Hundreds of dogs and their escorts promenaded through the French Quarter as tens of thousands cheered on in the annual Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon (Feb. 19).

This year’s theme: “Pirates of the Crescent City: Barkus Tells Tales of Jean Lafleabag.” Several venders supporting everything from shelter to animal rights were on hand as well.

I was given the opportunity to follow along with the Disco Amigos, the popular dance group, that literally brought up the rear of the parade, which started and ended in Armstrong Park. I’ll have some videos up later.

Krewe of ’tit Rex Trumps hate but hates Trump in Mardi Gras parade (photos)

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Well, he had it coming. And with at least one float, you could make the argument he came close.

The tiny Krewe of ’tit Rex was big on satirizing our golden new president, Donald J. Trump — the “J” apparently stands for “Jesus Effing Christ a Lot of People Don’t Like Me Down There” — in a parade held Saturday (Feb. 18) and starting on St. Roch Avenue. The parade itself in some ways feels like it’s out-grown itself. The overflow of humanity makes it difficult to appreciate the intricately lit and designed shoebox-size floats, with amateur and professional photographers and videographers jockeying for position alone the sidewalk of the neutral ground.

But in skewering the new president (and many others), the krewe proved once again that big things come in small packages.

 

“Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival” puts women at the forefront of Mardi Gras history at the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere

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“IRIS AND THE GODDESSES OF CARNIVAL”
WHAT: Louisiana State Museum presents an exhibition celebrating the history of all-female Carnival krewes as Iris marks its centenary
WHEN: Opens Fri. (Feb. 10); runs through December 2018
WHERE: The Presbytere (751 Chartres St.)
MORE INFO: Visit the Louisiana State Museum website

One of the most anticipated features of the 2017 Carnival season will examine the feminine mystique when the Louisiana State Museum (LSM) opens its “Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival” exhibition on Friday (Feb. 10) at the Presbytere.

Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival Exhibition from LaStateMuseum on Vimeo.

The exhibition, produced with the support of krewes of Iris, Muses and Nyx, will, among other things, use the centennial commemoration of Iris to explore the evolution of female krewes, from the 1890s to contemporary Carnival — which has seen an explosion of the concept over the past two decades. There will be rare artifacts from the LSM’s vast collection, but also will include pieces from outside lenders, including what is considered the earliest-known existing queen’s dress of Iris that was worn in 1941 by Irma Cazenave — spouse of Count Arnaud Cazenave. The dress has been provided on loan from Arnaud’s restaurant.

“The Krewe of Iris boldly paved the way for other women’s krewes,” said Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said in the press release. “The tremendous surge in participation in Mardi Gras by women is a testament to their success.”

Iris is named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow. When it was founded back in 1917, the women’s suffrage movement was in full swing, and the right to vote was just a couple years away. The emergence of Iris came after two decades of New Orleans women’s work to establish Carnival organizations. Les Mystérieuses, the first of its kind, premiered with a ball in 1896. While the more recent emergence of such noted all-female krewes as Muses, Nyx and Femme Fatale will be noted, “Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival” will fill in the major gap in between — including a look at the first women’s parade, held by the Krewe of Venus in 1941.

(Check out images and other artifacts from the exhibition here.)

There also will be references to long-lost krewes such as “the Mittens, the Mystic Maids, Empyreans, Titanians and more,” the press release noted. “Long-lived parading krewes such as Shangri-La, Rhea and Cleopatra will provide another important part of the chronicle of women and carnival. Original tableau ball artworks executed by Spangenberg Studios; paintings inspired by the Iris, Muses and Nyx parades; and the very first Muses shoe from their inaugural 2001 parade will make this exhibition sparkle with the spirit of the many women’s krewes that have left their mark on carnival history.”

Some of the fun facts and highlights of the exhibition, courtesy of the museum, include:
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Orpheuscapade: Nathan Fillion, Harry Connick Jr., Harry Shearer, Bianca Del Rio and more (photos)

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The massive Orpheuscapade party inside the Ernest N. Morial Convention center served in typical fashion to offer a high-energy punctuation mark to the Krewe of Orpheus’ parade, with floats speaking to the theme, “The Wizard’s Bestiary,” and lots of celebrities and music for Lundi Gras (Monday, Feb. 8).

“Castle” star Nathan Fillion rolled inside the convention center as celebrity monarch, joined by humorist Harry Shearer (with wife/singer Judith Owen in a huge blue wig) and a ton of marching bands and lovely floats. But it was the presence of krewe co-founder Harry Connick Jr. that set the night on fire; the legendary musician rode in the parade and then hopped off to deliver a rousing set that eclipsed all acts that came before — including the cover band the Party Crashers and Chevy Metal.

Before he performed, Connick Jr. gave thanks to co-founder Sonny Borey, who earlier in the afternoon at a press conference that his mother had passed away that morning. Borey soldiered on, serving as a humble host in the convention center at his captain’s table along with artistic director Derek Franklin.

Snapshots from Mardi Gras on Claiborne

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Back in the day, Claiborne Avenue along the Treme neighborhood was a constant hive of activity, until city leaders OK’d a routing of a stretch of I-1o directly over that area, casting a literal shadow over a unique culture and commerce for the African-American community.

Treme in particular and black New Orleans never fully recovered from that decision, but Mardi Gras day represents a kind of reclaiming of that territory, with music, vendors, artisans, families, Zulu members, and Mardi Gras Indians flooding Claiborne Avenue — both under the bridge and off to the side, spilling all the way down Basin Street. It’s as magical a scene as anything in the French Quarter, with DJs and performers blasting music and gumbo boiling in pots and offered at $6 a bowl.

(One vendor offered a free sampling of cracklin’ just to be nice.) Photographers offered to take photos with street-themed backgrounds awash in airbrush spray paint at $5 a snap.

There is an official “Mardi Gras Under the Bridge” event, but really, it’s just one massive street party.

Here are a few snapshots from that scene.

Snapshots from Zulu parade on Orleans Avenue (photos)

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Watching the Zulu parade on Orleans Avenue has become a ritual, of sorts, setting up near Dooky Chase’s restaurant at the corner of Miro and enjoying an amazing street and neighborhood scene. Even though I’d parked my car two blocks away, I must have seen four neighbors smoking meats on the way up to the parade route.

Treme residents, vendors, tourists and even the occasional celebrity can be spotted along the route, and, before the parade proceeds, the king and queen each receive a toast from the Chase family perched on a grandstand outside the restaurant. When it’s all over, plenty of people head back in the other direction for Claiborne Avenue and an even more impressive street scene that includes “Mardi Gras Under the Bridge.” I’ll have snapshots from that in a separate post.

Check out my feature on Zulu King Jay Banks and his wife, Artelia, in the New Orleans Advocate, as well as a look inside their lovely Uptown home.