Hail, loyal subjects!
There was a time when Mardi Gras was referred to as, "The greatest free show on earth." Perhaps that's not the best title, but indeed, the show must go on and Carnival krewes did an outstanding job adjusting to schedule changes in an otherwise super season, and they braved the elements to shine in bright lights and brilliant color for parade watchers. It was an interesting year as we witnessed the debut of new signature floats, big anniversaries were feted and clever and highly coveted throws were dispensed.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the krewe members who generously present us with such spectacle.
So without further ado, here are my reviews of 2013 Carnival parades.RATINGS KEY:
Sets a new carnival standard
Very Good to Outstanding
Best Overall Parade: Rex
Best Day Parade: Thoth
Best Night Parade: Proteus/Muses (tie)
Best Superkrewe: Rex
Best Suburban Parade: Caesar
In "All Creatures Great and Small," Rex presented a wide array of real and mythical creatures in brilliant color, sometimes with moving props. There was everything from a giant mosquito and brilliantly colored sea slug to a ferocious tiger, a surreal Jabberwock and a creepy Cyclops. Paper ornamentation like flowers and snowflakes animated the designs, and sculpted props were expertly proportioned and detailed. And in a bit of fashion sense, costumes matched the floats wonderfully. The organization also introduced individual float throws for the first time in its parade, which it previewed on its Facebook page. All in all, it was a magnificently orchestrated parade. Cups offered even more details about floats, and wrap bracelets were popular. Adding to the procession's worldliness was Switzerland's Guggenmusik Kamikaze band, offering its distinct marching beats. Local standouts included marching bands from Warren Easton and De La Salle high schools.
Bacchus took paradegoers on a tour of the Seven Seas, and some of the more impressive sights included a puffer fish and corral on a "Curacao" float and a giant turtle on the "Galapagos" float. But drawing one of the stronger responses from the crowd was former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason joined by current Saints players. Celebrity monarch G.W. Bailey (from several Police Academy movies) has served as a director of the Sunshine Kids Foundation, which helps children suffering from cancer, and the procession included a float carrying a host of children involved with Sunshine locally. Standout marching bands included St. Augustine's Marching 100 and McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School. Throws that matched the theme included leis, pirate sabers and plush bananas, which were relevant to both the Kong family floats and the "Congo" float.
Caesar's "Walk in the Park" featured a crowd-pleasing constellation of theme parks, from Dollywood to Hollywood Studios and Marvel Superhero Island to Carousel Gardens in City Park. Guests included Mickey Mouse, Big Bird and Elmo on appropriate floats. Floats looked sharp, especially those with neon lighting. Costumes were also well done, particularly the roller coaster incorporated into the Captain's headpiece. Hats and costumes matched individual floats in most cases. There were 11 marching bands in the procession, and standouts included Archbishop Rummel, Northshore and Ponchatoula high schools. Generous riders tossed plush animals, many light-up items and doubloons.
Hermes went for Baroque with "The Theatrical Baroque," a parade full of exquisite floats depicting great works of art and architecture. Impressive floats featured a brilliant sculpture for Milton's Paradise Lost, a Florentine dragon, and a view from St. Peter's at the Vatican. There were pretty sculptures on floats celebrating Verdi's opera Nabucco and Vivialdi's Primavera. The new floats went well with the krewe's signature floats, such as the "The Court of the Great Mogul." A fitting throw was the light-up chalice, and there also were headbands and light-up throwing discs.
Inspiration is often close at hand, and Muses found a cornucopia of satirical ideas at the supermarket. "Making Groceries" featured floats matching common grocery items to satirical targets. Mayor Mitch Landrieu appeared as Mr. Clean, and "The Bakery" offered a hemp-based approach to sweet treats. In its market, Famous (Jim) Amoss is a variety of baloney sold in the "Canned Goods" section. A "Checked Out" aisle paid final respects to New Orleanians including "Uncle" Lionel Batiste. Throws included many plush fruits and vegetables, including the trinity of onion, bell pepper and celery. Reusable shopping bags were also well tied into the theme. Musical highlights included George Washington Carver High School's band playing "Moves Like Jagger," and there also were good performances by bands from Eleanor McMain Secondary School and St. Augustine and O. Perry Walker high schools. The krewe unveiled a new version of the signature Sirens float.
Though many krewes have turned to themes from the ancient world, Proteus is one of the few krewes that could pull off a stunning parade celebrating the roots of New Orleans Carnival. Using its old wagon wheel floats underscored the history and tradition. Officially, the theme of "Hidden Carnival" saluted krewes that have not or no longer parade — the krewes of Comus and Momus among them. But the ball-only Carnival clubs like the Atlanteans, Athenians, Cowbellion de Rakin and original Phunny Phorty Phellows were also represented, each listed with the year of its founding and many coming up on the century mark. The props, images, dangling flowers and baubles that detailed the floats were magnificent and highly varied. There was a brilliant orange mask and goblet for Comus, a forest for the Elves of Oberon and the water-dwelling Titan Nereus resembling a small Poseidon. The floats' beauty made Rex Duke recall the days of parades before throws became so popular. But coveted throws included blue krewe pillows featuring Poseidon, plush tridents and seahorse beads. For bands, the procession included the wonderful Guggenmusik Kamikaze band from Switzerland as well as the Roots of Music Marching Crusaders and the 9th Ward Marching Band.
Thoth's "Salutes the Kings" unleashed the krewe's library of puns and wordplay around a kingly theme, which celebrated king cakes, King Kong, a double-truck of the King of Pop and King of Jazz and, of course, The King, who got his own two-float ride celebrating all things Memphis. The 610 Stompers, Gris Gris Strut and Pussyfooters (dancing to Zapp's "More Bounce to the Ounce") supplemented excellent marching band performances from Chalmette High School and Lafayette Academy. Generous throws included the popular and useful lanyard koozie, as well as signature beads and footballs.
"The Dictator's Reading Room" was anything but quiet, and the Krewe was quick to embellish a float ("Yertle the Turtle") lampooning Entergy's service record to include a dig at the Super Bowl blackout. Other sharp jabs included casting Gov.Bobby Jindal as Scrooge accounting for his political fortunes in "A Christmas Carol," and the now published three-times a week Times-Picayune in "Gone with the Wind." The Dancing Bounty Hunters squad paid off with fans. The krewe added a new signature float, "The Candy Wagon," modeled on the Roman Candy cart that's been a fixture on city streets for years. Prized throws included High Priest scepters, light-up items such as rings, gargoyles and bananas, and the krewe bulletin for those interested in more reading material.
The super krewe of Endymion believes in overdoing it, and this year's juggernaut aimed high. The theme of "Ancient Mysteries" was depicted with wonderful props like animals on the "Noah's Ark" float, the colorful Quetzalcoatl, the glimmering mermaid on the "Old Man River" float and Stonehenge. Not every float featured something entirely ancient or mysterious, such as "Voodoo." The largest if not newest addition to Carnival was the krewe's new signature multiple-car float celebrating Pontchartrain Beach. It is decorated with eye-catching props like a Ferris wheel. Unfortunately, the float was so long it got stuck several blocks into the route and had to be separated into two floats for some of the remainder of the route, causing delays. But the parade included more than 20 marching bands, and riders threw everything from light-up scepters and glow sticks to plush clown heads, plush footballs, throwing discs and more. Grand marshal Kelly Clarkson was popular with parade watchers. It was clearly a grand spectacle.
"It's About Time," said Mid-City, which took its own advice and beefed up its collection of Valentine's Day-related throws and colors as Feb. 14 approached. The signature foil floats were in full, eye-catching effect, and mash-up titles like "Once Upon a Time and Time Warp" and "A Timely Fashion and Sands of Time" matched riders in themed regalia. Jesuit's Jazz Band rocked from its own float, and St. Augustine High School's Marching 100 delivered big. The krewe's big hit was its quantity and quality of throws, from signature Zapp's potato chips to plush clocks and krewe cups, all thrown generously despite the brief parade.
Revisiting past themes on a major anniversary is not uncommon, but Orpheus' celebration of its 20th parade was quite a sight. There was a deep roster of celebrity riders, including founder Harry Connick Jr., Gary Sinise, Nick Cannon, Mariska Hargitay, Trombone Shorty and the Imagination Movers, endless flambeaux carriers, numerous marching groups (Sirens, Pussyfooters, 610 Stompers, Muff-A-Lottas, Rolling Elvi and others), high school, college and the Tipitina's Foundation marching bands. Big, bright flowers festooned the floats and wonderful props included Shiva under a canopied flower on the "Crescendos of Creation" float and the donkey on the "Nonsense and Tomfoolery" float. Even the backs of floats had good props, especially the Day of the Dead skeletons on the back of the "Signs of Superstition" float.
Zulu's 2013 theme "One World, One Love" was stretched in a couple of directions. For love, some references seemed to look past Fat Tuesday to St. Valentine's Day (there was a "Zulu Amore" float). And the rest of the floats seemed to fit the notion of "everything under the sun" more than "One World." The potpourri stretched to include a float for Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven and "American Gothic." The royal floats, royal costumes and the elected offices (Province Prince, Big Shot, etc.) were truly stunning, however. The Baby Dolls looked good in bloomers and parasols. Guest riders included Louisiana natives and recent Super Bowl champions Jacoby Jones and Ed Reed as well as Warren Sapp. The riders were extremely generous, with everything from coconuts (some bearing new logo stickers or graphics) to plush bears, foam footballs, tambourines, an array of medallion beads, black and yellow fringed parasols and more. Impressive musical performances came from St. Augustine's Matching 100, Sophie B. Wright, McKinley High School from Baton Rouge and Shaw High School from Cleveland, Ohio.
On an altered route entirely in Jefferson Parish, Alla soared with a theme dedicated to birds. Some of the real and mystical birds depicted included a very pretty fiery orange Phoenix, a griffin, an American eagle and a "Wise Old Owl." Alla also typically works its theme onto the feathered collars worn by the maids, and the women had brilliant collars featuring bees, butterflies, a peacock and other winged creatures. Another strength of this parade is its great number of marching bands. Among the 17 were a U.S. Marine Corps band in front, St. Augustine's Marching 100 and bands from O. Perry Walker, Archbishop Shaw, Brother Martin, John Ehret, West Jefferson and L.B. Landry High School, among others. Popular and heavy throws included long beads, footballs and throwing discs. If there's any drawback to the procession, it's that the title float comes halfway through the parade, and there are as many royalty floats as theme floats.
Babylon's "Land of Dreams" featured many fanciful places and many were in some way related to sleep — literally or as a turn of phrase, such as the Rip Van Winkle float, "The Wizard of Oz," "Snow White" and the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Many riders wore wigs and bright if not elaborate costumes. The musical highlights included the U.S. Marine Corps band playing "Didn't He Ramble." Popular throws included long beads, cups and light-up toys.
The Krewe of Carrollton let the good times roll with a parade full of local favorites. While the theme is not exceptionally original, the krewe made it work by matching costumes to floats, such as the zebra costumes on the "Audubon Zoo" float and the chefs' outfits on the float depicting a seafood boil. Other attractive floats included "Off to the Races" and "A Trip to the Aquarium." There was a good number of bands and impressive performances were turned in by McDonogh 35 High School and St. Paul's School of Covington. The 610 Stompers were a crowd pleaser as well.
The Knights of Chaos often dive into local and national political topics in its satirical parades. "Chaos Goes Overboard" lampooned many captains' leadership, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu as Cap'n (Budget) Crunch and Gov. Bobby Jindal serving Tea Party tea. The "U.S.S. Constitution" featured U.S. Supreme Court Justices in their respective ideological lifeboats as Chief Justice John Roberts steered the ship toward Obamacare. And of course, "Mutiny on the Bounty" featured pirate Roger Goodell. While the theme was clever, not every sailor was in shipshape, and wobbly ones probably shouldn't have been stationed on the title float. Paradegoers fortunate enough to catch light-up swords enjoyed them. The procession included the young but enthusiastic Tipitina's Foundation marching band.
The ever-secretive Druids unearthed a witty theme about phobias. While some invoked common fears, such as those of snakes and spiders, more entertaining ones included "Westbankphobia" and "Winephobia." And there was an amusing nod to last year's sticker fiasco involving Le Krewe d'Etat and Muses. Instead of surreptitiously applied stickers, Druids mounted a prop of a pink high-heeled shoe spiked into a skull. Among the standout marching bands in the procession were those of Sophie B. Wright and John Curtis high schools. The krewe follows tradition and riders stay masked.
For its sophomore effort, the Krewe of Nyx braved inclement weather and presented a night at the movies that wasn't too heavy on chick flicks, but many featured women in the title. Popular floats included "The Devil Wears Prada," "Pretty Woman," "Scent of a Woman" and "Crazy, Stupid, Love." The women of the krewe costumed in blonde wigs and masks and some added devil horns. The marching bands from St. Augustine and Ursuline impressed the crowds. Popular throws included glass beads and hand-decorated purses. The Cherry Bombs and 610 Stompers also joined the procession.
Pygmalion debuted a new signature float, the Jester float. But the trick that made this parade more than the sum of its parts was the krewe's ability to get the most out of what it had. The front of the procession featured the bands of St. Augustine, George Washington Carver and O. Perry Walker in quick succession, with Warren Easton not far behind. With them all playing hard, it created the impression that the parade was packed with powerhouse bands — though the total was nine marching bands in the whole parade. Similarly, the theme of celebrating the holidays was not uncommon in Carnival this year, but Pygmalion chose floats judiciously, and the floats featured good props and paint jobs to effectively present the theme, with highlights including "St. Valentine's Day," "Christmas" and "Chinese New Year." The krewe also worked the theme into the sparkling collars worn by the maids, with colors and sequined images matching several of the holidays on floats.
Tucks enjoys its toilet humor and enticed the crowds to join it with hand-decorated toilet brush throws. But all the regular throws, including krewe toilet paper, were generously distributed as well. The theme of "Uncovering History" was a little loose. The "Spanish Fly" float was amusing. The "Louisiana Purchase" float had some funny jabs, but riders matched colonial wigs and T-shirts, which is half a costume. There also was a float called "Around the World" that seemed to be a reference to the Louisiana World Exposition, but it wasn't clear. Matching the krewe's irreverent spirit was the Laissez Boys, a group that rides motorized La-Z Boy recliners. But the "Funky Tucks" float kept spirits high and fans seem to appreciate the krewe's randy, low-brow approach.
"Argus Memories" included the floats "Love is in the Air" and "Greatest Show on Earth" and a few floats hitting patriotic notes. Cast members from Beasts of the Southern Wild, including Oscar-nominated Quvenzhane Wallis and co-star Dwight Henry, rode as special guests. West Jefferson High School's marching band stood out among the bands. Riders threw generously to crowds that braved inclement weather.
Parading on the Uptown route for the first time, this senior West Bank group attempted to show the "Avenues of America," though some props seemed like wrong turns — crowds instead glimpsed Batman, Darth Vader and Mother Goose on floats. But colorfully costumed float riders and ornate Indian headdresses on riders on horseback spilled color onto the streets. Signature wooden nickels and plush tomahawks were favorites among the crowd, and Edna Karr and Marrerro's L.H. Middle School marching bands were a hit.
The Krewe of Cleopatra made its debut on the Uptown route and celebrated its 40th anniversary. The procession included an impressive number of bands (14), nearly matching the total of floats and keeping the music coming. Some of the standout high school marching bands came from St. Augustine, John McDonogh, Edna Karr and John Ehret. The krewe's pretty royal floats feature Egyptian sights, including temples and boats on the Nile. The floats recalling past year's themes were more hit and miss. "Dreams of Conquest" featured a Drew Brees prop, which worked well, but a few of the floats stretched the titles, such as "Let Me Entertain You." It was decorated with a globe, airplane and Eiffel Tower and seemed to be about travel.
The krewe of Excalibur never forgets the Ladies of Avalon, even though it works the word "knight" into most of its themes. This year, "Knightengales: The Good, the Bad and the Lovely," was all about the women. The battle between the good girls and the bad girls featured Mother Teresa, Oprah Winfrey, pirate Grace O'Malley, Cruella de Vil and Vampira. Krewe royalty always wear spectacular feather and sequin collars, and the maids' collars identified them as women in the parade theme. Delilah's collar featured two columns. Overall, the theme worked well, and the krewe's signature floats are well-done. With just five marching bands, the procession could use a few more, but the high schools of Bonnabel, Riverdale, Donaldsonville and Cohen College Prep turned in worthy performances. Riders were generous with beads and throws.
The Krewe of Iris celebrated Louisiana festivals and floats inlcuded "Jazz Fest," "French Quarter Festival," "Oktoberfest," "Happy Mardi Gras," "Bonfire Festival," "Strawberry Festival" and "Crawfish Festival." Costumes were pretty if simple and masks often reflected the colors of the float. Popular throws include plush fleur de lis scepters.
The Krewe of Morpheus presented "Friday Night at the Movies" and featured films included classics and recent hits. Some of the more attractive floats depicted Star Wars, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Miracle on 34th Street and Breakfast at Tiffany's. There were more than 15 bands and standout marching bands included O. Perry Walker. The Navy's Full Steam Brass Band also was popular with the crowd. Coveted throws included long beads and plush items.
The N.O.M.T.O.C. parade has a good neighborhood feel, with the krewe maintaining its longtime route in Algiers and many people in the crowd calling to friends and family on floats. The krewe envisioned a much wider world in "Of Imagination and Dreams" and impressive floats included a bright orange bird on "The Phoenix," a float with Apollo riding a chariot and a frightening-looking bird on "The Giant Roc." Bands included the Madison High School "Soul Rockets from the South" from Tallulah, as well as Edna Karr Magnet and Shaw High School from Cleveland, Ohio. Popular throws included large stuffed animals, Jug Man dolls, medallion beads and krewe logo canteens.
Last year, this krewe explored local institutions of yesteryear — but for 2013, it rounded up exotic locales like Monte Carlo casinos, the Imperial Gardens in Kyoto, Japan, and Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Riders' costumes complemented the float themes in colorful and fun ways — pharaohs for Egypt, chefs for Tuscany and Mounties for Canada. A percussion-heavy Skullz 'N' Bonez band added a unique twist to the parade, and crowds were thrilled with a generous bounty of throws like doubloons and plush toys.
This family-friendly day parade kicked off the first weekend of Uptown processions with its typical fill-in-the-blank guessing game theme. The krewe asked "What Are You Afraid Of?" and showed off cockroaches and sunburns and even "going to confession," taxes and "getting the king cake baby." Kids loved throws like plush toys and long beads, and the multi-colored krewe cups were popular. The Marine Corps Band opened the procession, and Miller-McCoy Academy performed a massive marching band rendition of Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire."
"Adonis' Saturday Matinee" featured movies, of course, but there were other Hollywood-related subjects as well. Typical of the popular films on floats was "Pirates of the Caribbean," represented by a pirate ship-shaped float. Another float was dedicated to the paparazzi, and riders distributed plush $20 bills. Many riders were shed their masks. On the musical front, good performances were turned in by Fannie C. Williams Charter School and Gretna Middle School's marching bands, but the procession could use a few more bands.
The riders in Atlas clearly have a good time. This small Jefferson Parish krewe makes participating in Carnival accessible, even riding in a parade. The theme celebrated local festivals and some of the better floats were "Essence Music Festival," the "Wine and Food Festival" and the "Film Festival." The parade was light on bands, with Destrehan and Roosevelt high schools among the few who marched. There also were only 11 floats in the procession. Riders threw beads enthusiastically, but many also shed their masks at the beginning of the route.
Centurions was in a festive spirit with a theme celebrating holidays and members throwing generously. Some of the more colorful floats included the Cinco de Mayo float and "Thanksgiving" with a large turkey on it. Riders on each float wore hats that matched the float theme, but only one had costumes to match. The parade could have used more bands, but some of the standouts included Rummel High School at the front and Donaldsonville High School.
It's not a surprise to get a theme like "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" from the Krewe of Isis, but it is notable that the women came prepared. One of the standout elements was how well costumes matched float themes. The "Seafood Boil" float featured an appropriate shrimp prop and the riders wore red aprons and chefs' toques. "Strolling in the Park" featured a woman in a dress holding a rose and the riders wore Southern-style garden hats. Ponchatoula High School stood out among the handful of bands.
The krewe presented "King Arthur Colors His Kingdom," which allows some flexibility with individual float ideas. Unfortuantely, severel concepts didn't use the designated color prominently on the float. "The Legend of the Black Pearl" was indeed a pirate theme, but black wasn't a big part of the paint job. At least in many cases, the riders' costumes matched the designated color. The procession did have almost 10 marching bands and those from Eleanor McMain, Lake Area New Tech Early College High School and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter really put on a good show. Riders threw generously and popular items included giant toothbrushes and plush basketballs.
The Corps of Napoleon braved inclement weather and rode with canons ablaze. The "Laissez les Bon Temps Roule" theme captured the krewe's spirit, and some nice elements included many float riders wearing hats that matched the float theme, such as jester hats on the Mardi Gras float. Bag of Donuts led the parade in KISS costumes, but what the procession really needed was more bands. Among the handful it did have, Lutcher High School stood out.
The Oshun parade was heavy on royalty, and the floats ridden by krewe royalty, referred to as god Shango and goddess Oshun, were two of the more impressively decorated. The royal contingent includes many goddesses (of wealth, fountains, love, etc.) and the royals were all sharply dressed, and some wore feathered headdresses. Many float riders shed their masks. The theme "Children are Our Future" was general enough to accommodate broad titles such as "Music," "Entertainment" and "Politics." And many of the floats were painted with the same whimsical piano keys the parade has featured for years. Often the only element of the float that related to the title was the prop. The parade fielded eight marching bands, with impressive performances from St. Mary's Academy (leading the parade), Sophie B. Wright and O. Perry Walker high schools.
The Sparta procession was led by the Spartan helmet icon pulled by a mule, and the captain and mounted officers in sparkling new outfits and riding large horses followed. It was an impressive lead off, but the krewe didn't always follow through so magnificently. It was light on marching bands, although it added a bagpipe unit and some musicians playing on trailers. The salute to Frank Sinatra tunes worked better on some floats than others. The "Love and Marriage" float with a bride prop on the front of the float and a bouquet of flowers on the sides was a better example. The "Chinatown, My Chinatown" float with what looked like a Chinese New Year theme was less convincing. Riders kept their masks on; it's nice to see the dedication to Carnival tradition.
The Thor parade celebrated Louisiana festivals with floats including the "Strawberry Festival," "Jazz Fest," "Bonfire Festival" and "Mardi Gras." Costumes were simple, but in most cases, they matched their individual float themes. Lutcher and Roosevelt high schools' marching bands entertained the crowd, but the parade would benefit from more live music and less recorded tunes. One distinguished rider opted to reign with a drink in a koozie as opposed to a more traditional scepter.