Rex Duke™ suits up for the first week of Carnival.
Greetings, costumed subjects. It's time, once again, to take to the streets, neutral grounds, balconies and ladder-seats to greet the kings and queens, the tossers of trinkets, high-stepping marching bands, and the other paraders and serenaders that give our Carnival season its glitter and glory. I, Rex Duke™, have my hard-toiling scribes of a certain alternative weekly newspaper hard at work, eliciting a few secrets from the krewes. But be no armchair reveler; the following guide should set you on your feet, hands raised in bead-greedy expectation and lungs bursting with the seasonal plea: "Throw me something, mister!"
FRIDAY, FEB. 21
Oshun 6:30 p.m.
Theme: "Shades of Blue"
King: Jeffrey Washington
Queen: Marilyn Monroe Clark
Throws: Traditional krewe cups, lighted beads, medallion beads
Oshun's got the blues, but don't get down about it -- the krewe, which rolls Uptown for the second consecutive year after moving from Mid-City, will honor this particular shade with floats named for a range of songs. "Blues Indigo," "Beale Street Blues" and "Down Home Blues" are a few of the floats that will make for a colorful parade. Jazz violinist Michael Ward serves as grand marshal; marching bands include St. Augustine, St. Mary's and Xavier Prep. Get ready for the peacock to do its strut.
Cleopatra 6:30 p.m.
Location: West Bank
Theme: "Cleopatra Takes a Walk on the Wild Side"
Queen: Linda Middleton
Throws: Flying discs, logo beads, float-themed cups and stuffed animals, logo shot glasses and champagne flutes, baseball caps, footballs, soccer balls, key rings, magnets, bobbing-head dolls
No, it's not an homage to Lou Reed; let's just say Rex Duke™ will be jockeying for position to catch the menagerie of float-themed stuffed animals as Cleopatra honors the wild kingdom. Tigers, lions, pandas, zebras, giraffes, flamingos, rhinos, alligators, mallards, swans -- even our national bird, the bald eagle, will be honored. The annual battle of the bands should heat things up when the all-female, 500-strong Cleopatra, now in its 31st year, rolls.
Atlas 7 p.m.
Theme: "Happiness Is"
King: Tom Ignelzi
Queen: Hope Ignelzi
Atlas has been rolling in Jefferson Parish since 1969. This year's happy theme will nod to all the things that give us pleasure, including eye candy ("Watching the Fireworks"), looking toward the heavens ("Stargazing") and, of course, food (watch for the spaghetti and meatballs!). While Atlas will be a little light on the throws, keep an eye out for a high-quality 3-D Mardi Gras poster from an artist who worked with nine krewes this year, on sale for $30. Also returning are the popular king's jesters who delighted the crowd for the first time last year.
Pygmalion 7:30 p.m.
Theme: "Pygmalion Sculpts the World"
King: Nelson Paul Savoie
Queen: Brenda Newsom Verges
Throws: 3-D medallions, molded medallions, stuffed football with krewe insignia, cups
Now in its fourth year, the krewe of Pygmalion's goal is to develop into a super-krewe for the first weekend of Mardi Gras season. With 250 members in its ranks and a reputation for elaborate costumes, Pygmalion's aspirations aren't just royal puffery. Catch them now and you can say, "I remember Pygmalion's early years ... ."
SATURDAY, FEB. 22
Location: West Bank
Theme: "Aladdin says 'Name That Tune'"
King: Troy Hoffpauior
Queen: Sharon Hirsch
Throws: Yard Dogs (long beer steins), Aladdin keychains, brassieres
The night before Aladdin, all-female Cleopatra rolls, and all-male Alla follows Aladdin on Sunday. In between, Aladdin throws a large family-friendly parade whose riders are made up of men, women and children. That helps explain the krewe's 900-plus strong membership. This year, look for New Orleans Saints offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley on the captain's float, and Benny Grunch & the Bunch on the float that follows.
Theme: "Do Ya Know Where Y'At?"
King: Richard Curtis Wheeler
Queen: Sacha Alexandra Grace Peiser
Throws: Grand Marshal cup, 22 oz. black cup, stuffed animals, beads
Well into its third decade (28 years, to be exact), the krewe of Pontchartrain is reviving a bit of its history this year. The krewe is bringing back two of its signature floats, Mr. Mudbug and Super Grouper. If those local seafood floats aren't a giveaway, Pontchartrain's commitment to local culture can also be found in its choice for grand marshal this year -- WDSU meteorologist Margaret Orr -- and its superb marching bands, including Xavier Prep and McDonough #35.
Shangri-La 1 p.m.
Theme: "Oriented Expressed"
King: G. Mark Owens
Queen: Debbie D. Grumblatt
Throws: Rosie the Dragon plush toy in three sizes; logo beads; float-themed beads; bikini panties; aluminum, red and black doubloons; multicolored imprinted cups; 30th-anniversary cup; 30th-anniversary surprise throw to be handed off the captain's float
Celebrating its 30th anniversary -- and its third parade in New Orleans -- this krewe, with members from all over the country, is staging a huge parade replete with about 18 marching bands, lots of rolling bands and other live music acts, and almost a dozen dance teams. The floats reflect themes from the past 29 parades, including "Journey to Shangri-La," "Past Monarchs Salute the USA," "Run for the Stars," "Celebration," "Salute the Fine Arts," and the final float, "I'm Damned Glad to be an American."
Sparta 6 p.m.
Theme: "A Knight at the Ballet"
King: Capt. Wayne Cucullu
Queen: Holly Elizabeth Whitlow
Throws: Lieutenants' special teal doubloons; cups and medallion beads with Sparta logo; doubloons of aluminum, purple, green and gold
Floats depicting ballets such as "Don Quixote," "The Nutcracker," "Swan Lake," "Stars & Stripes" and "Romeo and Juliet" will roll, along with 10 marching bands and three local dance teams. The 350-member krewe presents a special float honoring a prince and princess from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, who will be joined by two members of each the Saints and Zephyrs sports teams.
Caesar 6 p.m.
Theme: "Do You Believe?"
Emperor: James Friedman
Empress XXIV: Ashley Michelle Morel
Throws: Blinking beads, Caesar bobbing-head dolls, peanuts, cheese snacks and caramel corn packaged with Caesar's logo, Julius III panda doll, logo-emblazoned doubloons and cups
The 700-member krewe, the largest in Jefferson Parish, has assembled 31 floats, 30 marching bands from across the state, and several dance groups to accompany floats such as "Loch Ness Monster," "Extraterrestrial Beings" and "The Easter Bunny." Riders on the last float, "Voodoo," will pass out hand-decorated coconuts. Characters from Nickelodeon's The Wild Thornberries will appear on their own float, as will Zephyrs mascots Boudreaux and Clotile. The parade always features a lights extravaganza, with this year's captain's float boasting more than 5,000 lights.
Pegasus 6:45 p.m.
Theme: "Out of Africa"
King: Sterling J. Hebert Jr.
Queen: Jeanne Mari-Angelle Livaudais
Throws: Pegasus-emblazoned cups, silver and blue doubloons, footballs, flying disks, medallion necklaces, stuffed Pegasus horses, hand-painted wooden horseshoes.
Folk-rock singer Edwin McCain serves as grand marshal for this parade, which also features 10 marching bands, three jazz brass bands and two nutria riding in separate, open convertibles. (Actually, the rodents are Boudreaux and Clotile -- the married mascots of the Zephyrs baseball team). Pegasus floats include two tandem floats and five double-deckers with themed titles such as. "First You Make a Roux" "Queen of Denile" and "Wild Animals Born Free."
SUNDAY, FEB. 23
Location: West Bank
Theme: "Alla Salutes the Robert E. Nims Jazz Walk of Fame"
Maharajah: William Nungesser Jr.
Maharanee: Carrie Ann Williams
Throws: multicolored doubloons, Golden Griffin medallion necklaces, plastic goblets, stuffed Maharajah dolls
Float builder Blaine Kern Sr., captain of Alla since 1957, proudly observes that this West Bank procession was the first parade in New Orleans "with animation on the floats, double-decker floats, toilets on the floats ... and the first parade to throw cups." The Allajam band contest pits the parade's 25 marching bands. Title floats include "Mahogany Hall Stomp," "Red Hot Peppers" and "Tiger Rag." Grand Marshal George Shinn celebrates his first Carnival as co-owner of the New Orleans Hornets pro basketball team.
Theme: "Childhood Memories"
King: Dr. Ronald Aslett
Queen: Laura Ashley Cotaya
Throws: 3-D logo beads, cups, individual float medallion necklaces, flashing light beads, flying discs, stuffed animals
The popular neighborhood parade boasts 330 krewe riders this year -- the largest since Carrollton was formed in 1924 and the first time the krewe has cracked the 300-member mark. Sixteen bands and several dance teams help string together the "Childhood Memories" theme, with floats entitled "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," "Christmas Morning" and a neighborhood reflection: "A Day at the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Metairie Road."
King Arthur 1:15 p.m.
Theme: "What's the Big Deal? The Story of Louisiana, 1699-1803"
King: Dwain J. Hertz
Queen: Lonnie H. Pullins
Throws: Special beads for each float, krewe beads, flying discs, cups, purple, green and gold doubloons
King Arthur parades after Carrollton and before Bards of Bohemia in what promises to be an entertaining all-day event. The 300-member krewe will roll with 17 bands and 12 other groups in its 26th year of parading and third year marching in New Orleans proper. King Arthur commemorates Louisiana's early history with floats such as "The Discovery of Louisiana," "The Caribbean Influence," The Founding of the Archdiocese," "Arrival of the Ursulines" and "The Acadians Come to Louisiana."
Bards of Bohemia 2:30 p.m.
Theme: "Seventieth Anniversary: Rising From the Ashes"
King: James Blache
Queen: Judith Blache
Throws: Beads, cups
The Bards of Bohemia return after taking a year off to mourn the death of krewe captain Lawrence J. Smith. This year is a special one for Bards, as they celebrate their 70th year with floats that honor themes from every decade they've been parading. Float themes include "Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans" (1933-1943), "Gypsy Revelers" (1953-1963), "Fantasy of Color" (1963-1973) and, for 1993-2003, the appropriately named "The Bards Are Back." Bards will also honor former New Orleans Fire Chief William McCrossen with its Great American Award.
Rhea 2:30 p.m.
No further information was available at press time.
Mercury 4 p.m.
Theme: "Mercury's Musical Heritage"
King: Antoni Wilcox
Queen: Karin Toribio
Throws: cups, green "Super Sunday" medallion beads
This year, in Mercury's 18th year of parading, it's part of the "Metairie Super Sunday of Parades" -- with Rhea, Mercury and Centurions rolling back-to-back and throwing collectible "Super Sunday" molded medallion beads in Mardi Gras colors (Mercury's is green). About 65 parading units include floats such as "Mardi Gras Mambo," "New York, New York" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo."
Centurions 5:30 p.m.
Theme: "Join Centurions Under the Sea"
King: Matthew Plunkett Sr.
Queen: Victoria Castellon
Throws: tri-color medallion beads, red and gold adonized doubloons, Centurion stuffed swords, ladies' and gentlemen's lapel pins, gold "Super Sunday" medallion beads, cups
Centurions' 24th annual parade promises to be a "sea-riffic" adventure boasting floats such as "Sunken Treasures," "Shipwrecks," "Manta Ray," "Octopus" and "Seahorses." This year also includes a first for Centurions: a ladies' auxiliary riding in its own special float alongside the 350 male members. Several marching units round out this favorite Metairie family parade.