For me, Rex Duke™, few things in life equal the thrill of grabbing your first beads of the Carnival season, hearing the first clink of a doubloon against the pavement or seeing the first marching band perform "Mardi Gras Mambo," except, of course, taking to the streets for the biggest crescendo of the year on Fat Tuesday. Last weekend's parades barely whetted my appetite for gloriously clever themes, marvelously crafted floats, energetic marching groups and the bounty of goodies raining from the riders atop the moving artworks.
There is so much to see, from the flambeaux carriers and glittery Zulu coconuts to the meeting of the courts of Comus and Rex, which hails the end of the Carnival season. You will find my previews of the parades' themes, royalty and special throws, as well as maps of the parade routes and schedules in the following pages.
Join me in enjoying all the final week has to offer: the king cakes, the beads, the doubloons, the sights and sounds. Then check the March 3 issue of The Gambit for parade highlights and reviews.
Until then, laissez les bons temps rouler.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 18
Ancient Druids 6:30 pm
Theme: Announced day of parade
Arch Druid: Secret
Throws: Anniversary medallion beads, cups and doubloons.
The Ancient Druids follow old Carnival traditions and keep their theme secret until the parade. The krewe hints it's a one-word theme, and the floats carry one-word names playing off the theme. The name of the Arch Druid is never revealed, but this year's procession honors him with a new float called "The Arch Druid's Magician."
Thor 7 pm
Theme: From Sea to Shining Sea
King: Peter Rau
Queen: Erica Rau
Throws: Beads and cups
The Krewe of Thor is packing its bead bags and embarking on a journey "From Sea to Shining Sea." The itinerary includes floats depicting stops in New York to see "The Statue of Liberty," then wanders north for "Maine Lobsters" and finally treks West to "Sedona, Arizona."
THURSDAY, FEB. 19
Babylon 5:45 pm
Theme: Announced day of parade
King Sargon: Secret
Queen: Jamie Schultis
Throws: Lighted medallion beads, medallion necklaces and jester's hat beads
The 70-year-old Krewe of Babylon opts for traditional flambeaux and a mule-drawn king's float, just as it did when it first rolled in 1940. New jester-themed throws commemorate the krewe's origins as the Jester's Club.
Muses 6:15 pm
Theme: Secret till parade time
Throws: New shoe medallions and plush toys, logo footballs and theme koozies
The Krewe of Muses keeps everything top secret this year, including the theme and special throws. But it has revealed that honorary Muse Kimberly Rivers Roberts of the Oscar-nominated Trouble the Water will ride the krewe's giant shoe float. Guest marching groups include the Pussyfooters, Rolling Elvi and Camel Toe Lady Steppers. Throws include earth-friendly "re-Museable" tote bags made from recycled materials.
Chaos 6:30 pm
Theme: Ann0unced day of parade
Throws: Float cups, decks of cards and Nago-serpent throws
Chaos rides traditional wagon-wheel floats and typically presents biting satirical themes. All floats throw unique cups, and decks of cards are flush with pictures of the entire parade.
FRIDAY, FEB. 20
Hermes 6 Pm
Theme: Announced day of parade
Queen: Ann0unced day of parade
Throws: Theme medallion beads, light-up coins, light-up sandal beads and logo "flying H" plushes
Since it first rolled in 1937, the Krewe of Hermes has consistently honored its mythical namesake by delivering the message of Carnival through its lavish parades. The theme remains secret until the parade, but revelers can expect bright and colorful floats.
Krewe d'Etat 6 pm
Theme: Announced day of parade
Throws: Banana beads, light-up clear gargoyles, hologram cups, Dictator dolls
Krewe d'Etat introduces its Banana Wagon, a mule-drawn cart rolling on retro-styled wagon wheels. Riders will hand out bananas from the wagon. The satirical group pulls no punches and should leave a bunch of politicians, both local and national, singing a new tune.
Morpheus 7 pm
Theme: Heavenly Dreams
King: Jason Tullos
Queen: Sharonda Williams
Throws: Water meter beads, light-up logo wands, stuffed moon crescents, stuffed sheep with sleeping caps
Morpheus explores the cosmos with floats named for the planets, including Mars, Venus, Saturn and even the recently demoted dwarf-planet Pluto. The procession revolves around the music of 15 marching bands.
SATURDAY, FEB. 21
N.O.M.T.O.C. 10:45 am
Theme: N.O.M.T.O.C.'s Gumbo Pot
King: Tyson Joseph Giles
Queen: Danielle Nicole Lundy
Throws: Top hat beads, plush jug men and lighted beads
There is a little bit of everything for parade-goers to talk about in this year's N.O.M.T.O.C parade. Mixed into the "Gumbo Pot" are floats honoring Beowulf, Africa and the Headless Horseman. Be on the lookout for throws like plush jugs.
Iris 11 am
Theme: On the Road Again
King: Walter Thomas Lee
Queen: Alice Dours Dolese
Throws: Plush sunflowers, light-up sunglasses and wands, mini parasols and doubloons
Hit the road and see the sights with Iris. Floats depict San Francisco's Chinatown, Route 66, Washington, D.C., and the San Diego Zoo. Riders wear traditional opera-length gloves and masks.
Tucks 12:15 Pm
Theme: Cone of Horror
King: Robert Reichert Jr.
Queen: Darnell Bludworth
Throws: Plastic toilets, toilet plungers, medallion beads and panties
The raucous and irreverent Krewe of Tucks takes a potty shot at weather forecasting, referencing dreaded hurricane-season maps of storm-path probabilities. The group is known for its toilet and plunger humor; signature floats include the Out House and throne.
Endymion 4:15 pm
Theme: Tales of Sleep and Dreams
King: Michael Szczepanski
Queen: Ashley Roser
Throws: Light-up Endymion doll, stress-ball squeezable Endymion doll and long medallion beads
Endymion salutes its namesake's eternal sleep with floats inspired by slumber or dreams like the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Endymion doll throws will wear nightshirts. Celebrity guests include Kid Rock and REO Speedwagon.
Isis 6:30 pm
Theme: An American Song Book
King: John K. Jelinek
Queen: Lorie Danielson
Throws: America-themed dolls, purses and decorated flip-flops
For its parade, the women of Isis pay tribute to the music they love. Their float soundtrack/roster includes "Days of Wine and Roses," "America the Beautiful" and "Jambalaya." The krewe's unique throws are 1,000 pairs of sandals, each hand-decorated with rhinestones, feathers, yarn and ribbon.
SUNDAY, FEB. 22
Okeanos 11 am
Theme: Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler
King: Charles Arnold
Queen: Jessica Clausing
Throws: Tiaras, boas, cups and doubloons
Okeanos marks its 60th anniversary with a celebration of local life. Floats depict an octopus from the aquarium, a carousel horse, wine, fine dining and Louis Armstrong.
Mid-City 11:45 am
Theme: Parrotheads in Paradise
King: Silky Sullivan
Queen: Danielle Fricke
Throws: Zapp's potato chips, parrot theme cups, tropical plush toys and polystone parrot medallions
Jimmy Buffett won't want to miss this tribute to his songs and lyrics. Floats play off his hits, with "Lundi Gras" representing the song "Come Monday," and lines from "Margaritaville" getting a foil wrap in "Tourists Covered With Foil" and "Shrimp Beginnin' to Foil."
Theme: Thoth's Aquatic Adventure
King: Tom Stevens
Queen: Hayley Hagardorn
Throws: Medallion beads, logo footballs, cups and stuffed starfish
The Krewe of Thoth is setting sail this year on a high-seas "Aquatic Adventure." The epic voyage takes viewers to Scotland, "Searching for the Loch Ness Monster." Then it's off to the Pacific for "Whale Watching in Hawaii." The journey makes port "Searching for the Lost City of Chalmette."
Bacchus 5:15 Pm
Theme: Creatures of the Imagination
King: Val Kilmer
Throws: Blinking grape-cluster beads, theme medallions and float-specific T-shirts
Val Kilmer is back in town, the setting for his starring role in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Bacchus complements its signature creature floats like the "Bacchagator," "Bacchasaurus," "Bacchawhoppa" and the Kong family with monsters from mythology and popular culture. Some examples include "Sirens," "Purple People-Eater" and "Louisiana Swamp Monster." Many floats have their own signature throws.
Napoleon 5:30 pm
Theme: Vive La France
King: Jeffrey Soto
Queen: Barbie Ricouard
Throws: Cups and doubloons picturing royalty
The U.S. Marine Corps Band leads a parade celebrating all things French. Floats depict the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, wine country, French cooking and more. Some of Napoleon's royalty ride in horse-drawn carriages.
MONDAY, FEB. 23
Proteus 5:15 Pm
Theme: Mabinogion: The Romances of Wales
Queen: Ann0unced day of parade
Throws: Pearl beads, plush fish and plastic flasks
The name is tough to pronounce, but there is a historical link to why Proteus chose a world of knights, wizards and women for its theme. The krewe used the same material for its 1909 parade. "King Arthur and the Magic Carpet" and "The Lady of the Fountain" are two of the stories that will be depicted on floats.
Orpheus 6 Pm
Theme: The Whimsical World of How and Why
Throws: Medallion beads, cups and logo koozies
A host of celebrity guests headline Orpheus' parade, including Jim Belushi, Joan Rivers, New Orleans native and Mad Men star Bryan Batt, the cast of Reno 911 and cast members from reality-TV shows including American Idol and MTV's Real World and Road Rules. The theme celebrates children's stories.
Zeus 6:30 pm
Theme: Zeus and the Zodiac
King: Nicholas Beninate
Queen: Bridget Beninate
Throws: Doubloons, polystone light-up medallions and logo footballs
Zeus rolls with a constellation of floats depicting the signs of the zodiac. Music will be provided by the U.S. Marine Corps Band, nine marching bands drawn from five states and four jazz bands. Krewe lieutenants ride on horseback, but the captain will stable his white steed this year and ride in a 1957 convertible, the year of the krewe's founding.
TUESDAY, FEB. 24
Zulu 8 am
Theme: Celebrating 100 Years as a New Orleans Tradition
King: Tyronne Mathieu
Queen: Sheila Mathieu
Throws: Centennial medallion beads, handkerchiefs and coconuts
From its humble origins as the parading troupe of "Tramps," Zulu has grown into one of the most popular parades of the Carnival season. For its epic centennial, Zulu celebrates its milestones and impact on the city and Mardi Gras.
Rex 10 am
Theme: Spirits of Spring
King: Announced day of parade
Queen: Announced day of parade
Throws: Rex marks the 50th anniversary of its signature doubloon
Rex celebrates the Spirits of Spring, drawing on historical and mythical figures and events from around the globe. "Venetian Carnivale" and the "Vernal Equinox" are depicted on some floats. Others honor everyone from the Nordic goddess Freya to the Greek god Poseidon (the god of rebirth) to ancient Aztec and Chinese deities. Signature floats include the "Boeuf Gras" and "His Majesty's Bandwagon."
Argus 10 am
Theme: Bon Appetit
King: Fred M. Lay
Queen: Gillian Gibbs
Throws: Argus guest riders have signature medallions and long beads
Get ready to eat. Argus celebrates everything from tailgating and MREs to Mexican and Chinese dining. The "Bread and Water" float toasts convict cuisine. Celebrity guest riders include Jessica "Sugar" Kiper from Survivor: Gabon, Olympic medalist Nastia Liukin, state Commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry Mike Strain, painter George Rodrigue, plus Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and recently returned military veterans.
Theme: Grela Travels America
King: Philip Truxillo
Queen: Cambre Ann Constant
Throws: Red, white and blue bears, lighted pilsner glasses, logo cups and Grand Marshal Al Johnson cups
Founded in 1947, Grela is Jefferson Parish's oldest parading krewe. It backs up its claims of being a family-friendly parade by including men, women and children riders and tossing lots of stuffed animals. The parade celebrates travel to different states, including Alaska, Colorado, Ohio and Nevada.
Bes (FOLLOWS GRELA)
Theme: Starting Something
King: Philip Fricano
Queen: Katherine Trupiano Dollinger
Throws: Logo cups and medallions
Bes is a new parade and marks its inaugural ride with some rarities including the Saints playoff hopes and a snow-covered streetcar float. The krewe is also bringing satire to West Bank Carnival, so watch for the Derrick Shepherd float.