When I was 5 years old, about 1940, I remember waiting for a Carnival parade by the French Market. A few years ago I asked my father the name of the parade, and he said it was the 3rd District Parade. What can you tell me about the history of the organization?
The Third District Carnival Association presented its first parade on Mardi Gras, Feb. 21, 1939. The organization was formed by merging three Carnival organizations in the 3rd District: The 7th and 8th Ward Carnival Clubs and the Nemo Carnival Club of the 9th Ward. There were 10 floats in the parade, and the theme was "Wonders of Nature."
Congressman Joachim Octave "Bathtub Joe" Fernandez was king, but there also were three queens representing each of the three wards in the district. Eunice Knop represented the 7th Ward, Ethel A. Smith the 8th Ward and Mildred Sutton the 9th Ward. As many as 105 maskers on floats and horseback also participated in the parade, which began at 2 p.m. so folks watching parades on Canal Street could get to the 3rd District in time for more floats.
In 1939, the group staged a parade that started at Poland and St. Claude avenues, proceeded on St. Claude Avenue to Esplanade Avenue and back to its point of origin. Reviewing stands were erected in each of the three wards.
That first year the organization spent more than $1,000 on each float with the intention of making their parade one of the featured attractions of the Carnival season. Robed in gold, King Thirdist occupied a throne set against a shell background. Clouds billowed over the back of the shell and formed a canopy over the royal chair. The king stopped at each reviewing stand to toast the queen of each ward.
When Mardi Gras 1940 rolled around, the 3rd District krewe staged an even larger parade with three more floats than the year before and a band leading each float. Riding on the throne as King Thirdist was Gerald L. Schoen. The queens representing each district were Helen Elsenhorn, Audrey Arnold, and Almie Hauser.
The organization also staged a ball the evening of Fat Tuesday in '39 and '40. Like the first year, King Thirdist selected one of the young women to reign with him at the ball, which was preceded by a colorful tableau.
For Mardi Gras 1941 on Feb. 25, there was a change. King Thirdist was gone, and in his place was King Nemo — Joseph Clesi Jr. — of the Nemo Carnival Club. And there was only one queen — Mercedes Fernandez, daughter of King Thirdist the First. The seven floats moved down St. Claude Avenue and other principal streets of the 3rd District.
Then the parading stopped. From 1942 through 1945, all Mardi Gras parades were canceled due to World War II. Even when the celebrations began anew in February 1946, the Third District Carnival Association decided not to put floats on the streets, and the group never paraded again.