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The Throw Must Go On! 

Rex Duke™, the world's first and foremost Mardi Gras parade critic, returns with his annual preview of local Carnival parades.

Greetings once again, loyal subjects!

You know how my heart pounds at just the thought of another parade season. But this year, dear readers, your humble Carnival scribe is more inspired than ever by the grit and determination our fair city's courageous krewes have displayed by once again bringing forth their annual processions. All this, after Katrina's most inglorious inundation — not to mention various "krewes" of FEMA workers, no-show contractors and ... well, I digress.

As always, Mardi Gras provides just the mad diversion I need to keep my sanity intact. Of course, our already cluttered streets will see a leaner build-up to Fat Tuesday, thanks to that vile wench Katrina. Alas, we shall not see any local marching groups, nor any dance troupes, nor mounted posses, nor even (dare I miss them?) Shriners in those obnoxious dune buggies. But the Carnival gods have smiled on us enough to allow signature marching groups and riding lieutenants in those krewes that are able to proceed.

Most important, parade lovers, you need to know that all New Orleans krewes will roll in tandem, with fewer bands than usual — and in much tighter formation. So, don't blink between reaches for blinky beads, or you might not notice that one parade is over and another has begun!

Meanwhile, I, Rex Duke™, the world's first and foremost parade critic, will likewise take a respite from my usual task of assigning crowned ratings to each parade. The krewes have suffered enough from Katrina, I cannot ask them to subject themselves to my subjective reviews. For braving the elements as well as the recovery, I bestow five crowns upon them all!

See you on the neutral ground!

WEEK ONE
FRIDAY, FEB. 17

Atlas

6:30 p
.m.
Location:
Metairie
Theme: Secret
Floats: 10
King: None
Queen: None
Throws: Themed cups and medallion beads

Atlas will remain strong during this Carnival season, holding off its new royalty for next season while paying tribute to previous courts. Military personnel serving overseas in Iraq will be honored on floats this year.

Excalibur

7 p.m.
Location: Metairie
Theme: "A Knight at the Newsstand"
Floats: 19
King: David King
Queen: Ora Cosse Hill
Throws: Vinyl, stuffed castle, swords with logo, coin purses with logo, beanbags with logo, throw/favor bags, fifth-anniversary alloy medallion bead, regular beads, blinky beads with logo

This Camelot-inspired krewe moves its parade up from the second weekend this year, and while the parade starts at the Clearview Shopping Center, there will be lots of activities at Lakeside Shopping Center including a second line and a king cake built for 2,000 people. The parade's floats will honor popular periodicals such as Vogue, Bon Apetit, Entertainment Weekly and Travel & Leisure — some carrying maids, others not. One highlight will be the first-ever combined performance of the West Jefferson High School marching band and the school's ROTC marching band — 200 strong in total. The 260-member krewe may have lost 80 of its members for this year's parade, but gained 80 new ones right back.

SATURDAY, FEB. 18

Pontchartrain

Noon

Location: Uptown
Theme: "May God Bless New Orleans"
Floats: 8
King: None
Queen: None
Throws: Long beads, plush grouper fish, and more

Down from 175 members to 130 for this year, Pontchartrain saw its parade size cut in half, but will go for quality over quantity with its basic-concept theme that helps post-Katrina New Orleans remember the good things with floats such as "Bless Our Sports," "Bless Our Seafood," "Bless Our Music" and so on. Speaking of quality over quantity: EVERYONE is excited about the debut of "the MAX Band": a marching band combining the (reduced) forces of the St. Mary, St. Augustine and Xavier Prep marching bands for New Orleans' first supergroup marching band.

Shangri-La

Noon

Location: Uptown
Theme: "Come Hell or High Water"
Floats: 9
King: William L. Cowser Jr.
Queen: Irene Frances Matthew-Parker
Throws: Asian-themed throws including Oriental umbrellas, chopsticks, fortune cookies, plush dragons and sequin dragons, along with medallion beads, cups and 2,000 Shangri-La Sexy Lady beads

Shangri-La's parade shrinks from 24 floats to nine this year, but the theme speaks to the krewe's determination to carry on regardless of the circumstances. The floats' identities are kept secret until the parade rolls, but officers promise spirited titles and execution. Kudos to the krewe's clean-up efforts along Napoleon Avenue. The members will also honor an unnamed member of the relief/activist group Common Ground at the parade.

Pygmalion

Noon
Location: Uptown
Theme: "Pygmalion Sings a Song"
Floats: 14
King: Arthur Tudela
Queen: Susan Wallace
Throws: Custom cups and more

Pygmalion will carry a tune or two in this parade that only lost a couple floats compared to last year's parade. Look for such popular songs as "Monster Mash" and the appropriate "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" from Annie. The krewe is down from about 275 members last year to 225 this year but hopes to rebound next year. The king and queen will combine to ride on one float instead of the traditional two. Look for two military marching bands as well as Archbishop Shaw.

Knights of Sparta

Noon

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Sparta Salutes ... "
Floats: 9
King: None
Queen: None
Throws: Theme throws, medallion beads, light-up polystone beads, hand-strung Spartan beads, Trojan horse polystone beads, vinyl footballs, plush Trojan horses, logo coozies, hand-strung glass beads

These knights are taking their trademark sense of humor and putting it to satirical use with such tongue-in-cheek "salutes" to everything from "FEMA" and "Mandatory Evacuation" to "Levee Protection" with chiding subtitles. Two of Sparta's three bands (the maximum number allowed) will be the marching bands from West St. John and Donaldsonville high schools. Keep an eye out for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter.

Pegasus

Noon

Location: Uptown
Theme: "Broadway Musical"
Floats: 6
King: None
Queen: None
Throws: Cups, special beads with logo, regular throw beads

Pegasus, which saw its membership and parade both whittled down by about two-thirds this year, marches on with a salute to the Great White Way. The floats will honor popular Broadway musicals with floats such as "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," "Cats" and "Grease." Though there will be no royal court this year, the krewe's motto holds true: "Neither rain, cold, strike nor hurricane's might."

Caesar

6 p.m.
Location: Metairie
Theme: "Only in Nawlins"
Floats: 27
King: Bryan August Pfleeger
Queen: Erin Dempsey
Throws:
Cups, lighted beads, footballs, plush alligators, soccer balls, wrist bands

Even Hurricane Katrina hasn't held back Metairie's largest krewe from rolling strong this year, with more than 600 members ready to pay tribute to their Orleans Parish neighbors. Floats will honor some of New Orleans' icons including City Park, Mr. Bingle, Morgus the Magnificent, Pontchartrain Beach and Jackson Square. Founded in 1979, Caesar annually features the three-headed Hydra, and this year look for the Roman Candy Wagon — a New Orleans original.

SUNDAY, FEB. 19

Alla

Noon

Location:
West Bank
Theme: "Alla's Monster Bash"
Floats: 28
King: Russel Lloyd
Queen: Tiffany Marie Lloyd
Throws: "Golden Gryphon" and "coon-ass" medallions, parade-themed "Beanie" babies, and Alla goblets

Halloween comes late this year — or is it early for next? Either way, if you missed out on goblin-related fun while you were evacuated, standing in line at a FEMA recovery center or gutting your house, the Krewe of Alla offers a second chance to get your spook on. Floats include traditional monsters such as the "Wolfman," "Dracula" and "Frankenstein," and modern creeps such as the "Evil Clown" and the "Fly." Before the parade, Alla riders will proceed from the Algiers ferry landing to the Gretna ferry landing.

Carrollton

Noon

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Blue Roof Blues"
Floats: 24
King: Carol D. Van Geffen
Queen: Heather M. Haydel
Throws: Includes chocolate doubloons

The Krewe of Carrollton has the "Blue Roof Blues," a feeling that plenty of New Orleanians can relate to these days. Nonetheless, Carrollton turns any post-K unhappiness into an afternoon party with 350 male riders manning 24 floats. Officers will hand out special blue doubloons to commemorate this year's theme. Carrollton is the third-oldest parading krewe in Greater New Orleans, having weathered wars, depressions and, ahem, weather since 1924

King Arthur

Noon

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "King Arthur Blows You Away"
Floats: 12
King: Chad Michael Usea
Queen: Heather Gail Autin
Throws: Includes custom doubloons

This thirtysomething-year-old krewe was first conceived in a math class in a West Bank junior high school. Founders Philip Fricano Jr. and Carl Scivicque Jr. dreamed of forming a krewe, later staged a high school Carnival ball, and in 1978 put together the first parade of King Arthur. From its first route on the West Bank to today's traditional St. Charles route, King Arthur's parade features beautiful floats, some made in Valencia, Spain, that recall the splendor of Camelot.

Bards of Bohemia

Noon

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Bards Travels the World"
Floats: 10
King: Steve Whitman
Queen: Michelle Nagy
Throws: Includes long beads and plush animals

The "old-line krewe with a new-line attitude," Bards was founded in 1932; in 2006, it wraps up the first weekend of Carnival festivities. Ten floats pack a big wallop with the globe-trotting theme. This year, local musician/author/celebrity Vince Vance, he of the elevated hairdo (no crown necessary there), will preside as grand marshal of the parade and will also be the featured entertainment at the Bards ball later that night. Vance, his fancy coif and krewe members welcome random partygoers, as the Bards bash, held in the former Carlone's Dinner Theater space, is open to the public this year. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

Rhea

3:45 p.m.

Location:
Metairie
Theme: "It's Carnival Time"
Floats: 19
King: Peter Gilbert Cazalot Jr.
Queen: Ashley Brook Risey
Throws: Cups with logos, beads, cups, footballs, Frisbees, tambourines

Rhea will rely on its deep family ties to weather this year's depeleted krewe that still features the four-generation Soto family and a royal court that goes back three generations. Founded in 1970, Rhea is down from 275 members to 200 this year, but features a teenage queen who's held several royal posts and has been a member since age 6. Look for the marching bands from John Q. Adams and Riverdale middle schools, as well as the Mount Carmel Academy Rhythm Dance Team.

Centurions

4:15 p.m.
Location: Metairie
Theme: "Centurions Enjoys New Orleans"
Floats: 23
King: Michael Bourgeois Sr.
Queen: Ashley Erskin
Throws: Gold, aluminum and read doubloons; purple captain's doubloons, green officers' doubloon and blue court doubloons; king and queen cups; purple, green and gold krewe cups

Centurions is ready to do battle once again, and this time it's against the elements that tried to overrun their neighbors to the east in Orleans Parish. The New Orleans-centric theme will salute such recognized favorites as "The Audubon Zoo," featuring members from the Magnolia School; "Plantation," for the Ladies Auxiliary featuring the Zephyrs mascots Boudreaux and Chlotilde. All maids and dukes will represent a New Orleans landmark or event (French Market, jazz, Bourbon Street, etc.) This popular, all-male Jefferson Parish krewe boasts more than 300 members this year. The marching band from Archbishop Rummel High School will continue its tradition of leading the parade as it's done for Centurions' 27-year existence.

WEEK TWO
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 22

Thor

7 p.m.

Location:
Metairie
Theme: "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans"
Floats: 20
King: George Ackel
Queen: Jerilyn Ackel
Throws: Traditional throws of bead, cups, toys

Crowds are expected to be dense for Thor, the only parade to roll on the south shore on Wednesday. The krewe of about 350 doesn't plan any special throws, but a spokesman says corporate sponsorships ensure there will be plenty of things tossed to those who line the route for the group's 32nd anniversary. "The French Market," with a cabbage peeking out from behind the market's iconic arches, will join other floats such as "Canal Street Streetcars," "Coffee and Doughnuts," "The Aquarium," "Audubon Zoo," "Plantation Homes" and a half-dozen marching bands, including units from East Jefferson High School and West Jefferson High School.

THURSDAY, FEB. 23

Knights of Babylon

5:45 p.m.
Theme: Secret
Floats: 18
King Sargon: Secret
Queen: Secret
Throws: Babylon "Jester" beads, silver doubloons, krewe cups embellished with the theme, soft footballs

One of the most traditional krewes, Babylon keeps its theme as well as the identities of its royalty secret until the day of the parade. Ironically, the theme was selected a year ago and is centered around water. Founded in 1939, the krewe's parade traditionally includes flambeaux, and it owns all its own floats, including its signature "Hanging Gardens of Babylon," "Gates of Ishtar," "Jester's Jazz" and "Tower of Babel." The parade kicks off with the U.S. Marine Corps Band, and will include several riding jazz bands and high school marching bands. The krewe this year has invited first-responders, including police and military personnel, to ride in the parade with their throws provided by Babylon.

Chaos

6:15 p.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: Secret
Floats: 18
King: Secret
Queen: None
Throws: For the first time, riders on each float will throw cups with a drawing of their specific float on it. Another unique throw will be packages of collector cards with four-color images of different floats on the front and information about them on the other side. Chaos members also will toss doubloons and pearls.

Chaos maintains the traditional secrecy of Mardi Gras krewes and has a high respect for the satirical, which shows in presentations such as the all-white "Blanco" float, which has nothing on it. The krewe lieutenants ride on horseback, and the group's floats are more than a century old, built on old wooden-wheel cotton wagons. Marching bands will entertain among the floats, and this year each rider will make a personal contribution to the New Orleans Police and Firefighters Disaster Relief Fund, which benefits officers and firefighters who lost their homes to the flood after Hurricane Katrina.

Muses

6:45 p.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: Secret
Floats: 25
King: None
Queen: None
Throws: A plush spear (a Muses innovation), shoes hand-decorated by krewe members, blue and silver shoe bracelets, fiber-optic beads, Musie dolls, light-up flip-flop key rings, pedicure kits, Muses 2006 pink-and-green signature platform shoe

Among favorite recurring floats at the Muses' parade is a 17-foot-tall shoe covered in fiber optics, "The Bathing Muses" bathtub float, the "Sirens" float, inspired by Greek mythology and double-decker floats graced by trinket-throwing muses.

FRIDAY, FEB. 24

Hermes

5:45 p.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme:
"The Voyage of Ulysses"
Floats: 25
King: Secret until parade day Queen: Secret until parade day
Throws: Cups, blinky beads, fringe beads, glass beads, blinking Hermes medallion

In the past decade, Hermes has really upped the ante for traditional parades by coming forth with larger and more brilliantly colored floats, as well as innovative throws. This year's "Ulysses" theme will be portrayed by floats such as "Aelous: Keeper of Winds," "Ulysses Kills the Cyclops," and "Circe Enchants the Crew." Parading since 1937 (and now the city's oldest night parade), Hermes this year will feature nine marching bands, including the "MAX Band" (St. Mary's, St. Aug and Xavier Prep high schools) and the Northwestern High School band all the way from Ohio.

Le Krewe d'État

6:30 p.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: Secret
Floats: 19
Dictator: Secret
Queen: None
Throws: Cups, doubloons, blinky beads, a new "skull nerf," traditional glass beads

Now in its 10th year, the city's most irreverent traditional krewe once again keeps its satirical theme a closely guarded secret. What we CAN tell you is that Le Krewe d'État features real flambeaux, 10 bands (including Brother Martin High School, Tulane University, The Citadel's Summerall Guard and the Harper High School band from Chicago), as well as 21 horse-riding lieutenants and more than 360 riding members. Among the "new" looks this year are floats by veteran float-builder Herb Jahncke. Look for marching minions at the head of this year's parade passing out the krewe's popular satirical tabloid, Le d'État Gazette, which explains the satirical subtleties of each float and makes a great memento of this sardonic revue. Of course, d'Etat once again pokes fun at girls' marching groups with "the Dictator's Dancin' Dawlins," whose antics and costumes add a satirical strut to the krewe's lovable impertinence.

Morpheus

7:15 p.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Dreams of World Travels"
Floats: 14
King: None
Queen: None
Throws: Cups, doubloons, stuffed plush Morpheus Moons, S&WB medallions, fiber-optic wands

Since its inaugural parade in 2003, Morpheus (the god of dreams) has steadfastly adhered to presentations that convey a "dream" theme. Floats this year convey destinations we all dream of visiting, such as "Tulum, Mexico," "Rio de Janeiro," "London" and "Paris." Morpheus this year will parade with 225 riders and six marching bands (including Corliss High School in Chicago, John Ehret High School, East St. John High School, West Jefferson High School Air Force Junior ROTC drill team and several military marching units). Look for the specialty floats that Morpheus presents each year, including the "Temple of Morpheus" and "Sweet Dreams," which always appears at the end of the parade.

Aquila

7 p.m.

Location:
Metairie
Theme: Secret
Floats: 21
King: Dr. William R. Burden
Queen: Pamela Munoz Burden
Throws: Includes "Spirit," a plush eagle

The name "Aquila" is Latin for eagle, and this krewe is indeed as majestic as an eagle with elaborate costumes for its court and 200 male and female riders. Despite its coed status, Aquila tries to adhere to the traditions of the old-fashioned Carnival, such as keeping the theme a secret until the night of the ball. The parade, which was founded in 1976, kicks off Metairie's second Carnival weekend, and is known for its highly detailed floats and family-friendly atmosphere.

Knights of Jason

7:30 p.m.

Location:
Metairie
Theme: "Blue Skies Ahead"
Floats: 15
King: Stephen Rue
Queen: Tina Hall
Throws: Mr. and Mrs. KOJI, and Bert and Dot, a family of 20-inch dragons in Mardi Gras colors, plus collectible doubloons

Though the Knights of Jason is in its infancy — 2006 marks only its third parade — the krewe has already gained the reputation for bombarding Carnival crowds with lots of throws. But its theme this year will be more memorable than any throws, with optimistic float titles such as "Exploring St. Bernard" and "Dreaming of a New Lakeview." Former baseball star (and King Jason II) Will Clark will ride in this year's parade, and musicians Bag of Donuts will serve as grand marshals. The krewe has a year-round philanthropic mission as well, supporting autism research.

SATURDAY, FEB. 25

Iris

11 a.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Fantastic New Orleans"
Floats: 32
King: Lawrence Kurzius
Queen: Darlene Walker Adams
Throws: Doubloons (purple, green and gold sets), streetcar beads, ceramic lavender Iris beads, themed cups, footballs, Iris stuffed bears, lighted wands, and fiber-optic rainbow beads

Iris, the oldest and largest all-women krewe, decided on their theme long before the storm, and some of the floats will represent places we now miss: Audubon Aquarium, and the Fairgrounds. Others floats—D-Day Museum, Audubon Zoo, the French Market, and a Riverboat float—will remind folks why we're still here. The ladies may have lost their original costumes, but they've rebuilt them, just like New Orleans will rebuild its "fantastic places" and landmarks.

Tucks

Noon

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "No Rhyme or Reason"
Floats: 26
King: Tom Bagwill
Queen: Susan Clinton
Throws: Lighted beads, footballs, Frisbees, panties, bras, Tucks dolls, theme medallion beads, and Tucks' toilet paper

If you're looking for a thematic thread connecting the Tucks' floats, forget it. But that only increases the merriment for this rollicking Uptown krewe, which will sport (among others) a Batman float, the "Funky Tucks Float" and "Ye Royal Outhouse?" About 700 male and female riders think it makes sense, and who's going to argue with them when they're throwing toilet paper at you? Look for the newest Tucks' float, "Naughtyham," a 51-foot long creation featuring scantily clad wenches and the krewe's pickled namesake, Friar Tuck.

Endymion

3:30 p.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Legends and Lure of Gold"
Floats: 22
King: Kevin Jeasonne
Queen: Mariesa Retif Barbara
Throws: 40th Anniversary medallions, tricolor medallions, footballs, plush frogs, purple, green, and gold doubloons, themed cups, Frisbees, fiber-optic medallions

Endymion is celebrating 40 years of parading in New Orleans, and no hurricane is keeping this super krewe down. Mardi Gras's largest float, "Captain Eddie S.S. Endymion" will set sail through Uptown with a host of other floats — "Search for El Dorado," "The Golden Calf" and "The Golden Image of Nebuchadnezzar" — that symbolize the hunt for and the worship of gold. Although Endymion won't have as many marching bands this year, it will feature the "MAX Band," a collaboration between St. Augustine High School, Xavier Preparatory School, and St. Mary's Academy. And, of course, the band will be appropriately attired in ... gold. The co-grand marshals are Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi.

Isis

6 p.m.

Location:
Metairie
Theme: "There's No Place Like Home"
Floats: 12
King: None
Queen: None
Throws: Inflatable lipstick, inflatable tomahawks, lipstick, and special items matching a float's theme

The all female Isis krewe wasn't sure they would roll this year, but after polling their members, they decided to go for it with gusto. This year's theme will recapture the past and present greatness of New Orleans with floats depicting: Pontchatrain Beach, Mardi Gras Indians, the Sugar Bowl, the Moon Walk, and the Children's Museum. There is no king or queen this year since the events usually connected with being a member of the royal court never took place this year due to Katrina.

SUNDAY, FEB. 26

Okeanos

11 a.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "And It's All Here"
Floats: 14
King: Thomas J. Lee
Queen: Renee Ellis
Throws: Includes medallion beads and frisbees

Oddly, Okeanos' theme — one that celebrates the best things about living in New Orleans — was established before the Great Event of 2005. Look for floats honoring the New Orleans Zephyrs, fishing, sailing, the Fair Grounds É it's all here, after all. The krewe staged its first parade in 1950 around St. Claude Avenue. By the way, Okeanos is the Greek god of oceans and fertile valleys, so maybe a New Orleans tribute will prompt him to bestow good fortune on our city.

Thoth

11:30 a.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: Secret
Floats: 38
King: Richard Walker
Queen: Stephanie Ruh
Throws: Includes turquoise doubloons and mini-doubloons

First things first: The krewe name is pronounced "TOE-th," not phonetically, as a rhyme for sloth. In fact, the Egyptian god with an ibis' head represents everything that sloth isn't — science, art and wisdom, for example. This is one industrious deity! With 38 floats and 1,000 members, the krewe is, too. The parade is affectionately known as the "Krewe of Shut-ins" because, in its previous, traditional route, it rolled past 14 institutions that provide care to the sick, disabled and elderly. (The abbreviated route this year will prevent that this time.) Founded in 1947, Thoth has a long and colorful history in Uptown New Orleans, but it stays current: It introduced its newest float, "Egyptian Jesters," in 2004.

Adonis

Noon

Location:
West Bank
Theme: "Adonis Sings Up A Storm"
Floats: 14 Adonis: Dwain Hertz
Queen: Brittney Cardon
Throws: Themed cups, Captain doubloons (wooden nickels), and assorted beads

The Adonis krewe — men, women and children — blows a satirical musical look at the Post-Katrina world. Parade goers hopefully will be laughing and remembering when they see these floats: "On the Road Again (subtitled, "Contra flow"), "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" — featuring Huey Long and Governor Blanco, "Ain't Got No Home" — a tribute to the Saints and Hornets, and something we all feel these days, "Can't Get No Satisfaction." No, no, no.

Mid-City

2 p.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Rode Hard & Put Up Wet"
Floats: 12
King: None
Queen: None
Throws: Disc medallion beads, doubloons, cups and beads

Although hard-hit by Katrina, this lovable krewe returns with 125 riding members and its hallmark all-aluminum-foil floats — except for some with heavily damaged sections, which will be covered with blue tarps. This krewe often displays a sense of humor, and this year's throws include "aquatic" themed plush toys such as one that's a pig sunbathing on an inner tube (perfect for those flash floods). The humor continues with float titles such as "Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was gone," and "Promises, Promises" — a swipe at all things and persons federal. For more than 70 years, Mid-City has been a family favorite, and this year it adds a needed dose (or is that a splash) of satire. Five bands will join the fun, including the "MAX Band" (St. Mary's, St. Augustine and Xavier Prep high schools).

Bacchus

5:15 p.m.
Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Bacchus Follows the Yellow Brick Road"
Floats: 27
King: Michael Keaton
Queen: None
Throws: 2006 Bacchus medallion beads; beads with mini medallion images of signature floats such as the "Bacchigator," "Bacchawhoppa," "Bacchasaurus" and the Kong family floats; footballs; cups; wine and green doubloons; singing and blinking beads; and theme dolls including the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion

Actor Michael Keaton will reign as king of Bacchus, but he's not the only celebrity on board; singing legend Willie Nelson will ride in the parade as well as entertain at the krewe's Rendezvous. The parade also will feature 20 marching bands, Bacchus lieutenants on horseback and floats with titles such as "We're Off to See the Wizard," "Horse of a Different Color" and "There's No Place Like Home."

Napoleon

5:30 p.m.

Location:
Metairie
Theme: "Far Away Places"
Floats: 16
King: Robert Bourgeois
Queen: Jillyn Bourgeois
Throws: Lots of beads, cups, stuffed animals and more

Downsized from its usual 24 floats, Napoleon will make the most of the 16 that roll, presenting double-tandem and a couple of double-decker floats to a lineup that includes vessels themed "China," "Russia" and "India." Napoleon also plans to entertain parade-goers with riding jazz bands, marching bands and dance groups.

MONDAY, FEB. 27

Proteus


5:15 p.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Proteus Through the Years"
Floats: 20
King: Secret
Queen: Secret
Throws: Old-fashioned Czech-glass beads, blinking beads, signature red-and-white pearls, plush fish and sovereigns (doubloons)

The old-line krewe named for Poseidon's sea shepherd returned from a seven-year hiatus in 2000, and it is now one of Carnival's oldest and best-loved parades. This year being Proteus' 125th anniversary, the parade will honor its best floats from every decade, including the original king's float. Thirty of the pleasantly shaky wooden wagon wheels have been reinforced, combining modern technology with old-fashioned Carnival tradition. As always, flambeaux carriers will light the sea shepherd's path along St. Charles Avenue.

Orpheus

5:45 p.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Signs and Superstitions"
Floats: 22, plus the massive six-unit "Smokey Mary" and the fiber-optically enhanced, three-unit Leviathan
Throws: Includes 2-inch bronze doubloons and voodoo dolls

Seems like just yesterday that hometown crooner Harry Connick Jr. formed the Krewe of Orpheus. Which is strange, because almost overnight the 1,200-member parade blossomed into one of the city's super-krewes. This year, its 13th, Orpheus explores "Signs and Superstitions." As of press time, krewe officials were keeping mum on celebrity participation, but in the past, famous riders have included Vanessa Williams, Glenn Close and Dan Aykroyd, so the public can probably expect to see some A-listers on Lundi Gras.

Zeus

6:30 p.m.

Location:
Metairie
Theme: "Zeus Celebrates 150 Years of Carnival in New Orleans"
Floats: 24
King: Joseph Parris
Queen: Camille Bourgeois
Throws: Medallion beads, cups, Frisbees, and other assorted beads.

This is one lucky krewe. The Zeus-owned floats were all completed before Katrina, and none of them were damaged in the storm. Lucky for us as well because the floats will showcase in chronological order many of the legendary Mardi Gras krewes: Comus, Rex, Momus, Babylon, Hermes, and a number of others. Riders will wear costumes matching the traditional krewe colors the float represents.

TUESDAY, FEB. 28

Zulu

8 a.m.
Location: Uptown
Theme: "Zulu Leading the Way Back Home"
Floats: 26
King: Isaac Wheeler (from last year)
Queen: Cheryl Wheeler (from last year)
Throws: Coconuts, medallions, beads, doubloons, themed medallion beads (designed by Zulu President Charles Hamilton)

Like many of the krewes, Zulu's membership and parade totals were cut in half this year, though it should be noted the krewe's den on Broad Street has been up and running for some time now. This year the Zulu characters — Big Shot, Witch Doctor, Governor, Mayor, Providence Prince, Ambassador, and Mr. Big Stuff will each help pay homage to the streets on which Zulu parades (Bourbon, Canal, Claiborne, Orleans, Basin). The 150 riders will also help escort an amazing feature courtesy of a project spearheaded by (among others) Roy Glapion, Blaine Kern: 20 warriors from Africa. Don't miss the Budweiser Clydesdales, the U.S. Navy Band, next year's king-elect Larry Hammond, and, of course, the treasured Zulu coconut.

Rex

10 a.m.

Location:
Uptown
Theme: "Beaux Arts and Letters"
Floats: 27
King: Secret
Queen: Secret
Throws: New this year, Boeuf Gras beads, crown pillows embroidered with "Rex," plastic cups with all the Mardi Gras colors on them, white coozies with the Rex flag, new metallic Rex medallion beads with crowns and pearls, gold doubloons

Respected designer Henri Schindler developed the floats for this year's theme, which is a tribute to artists and writers who have enriched the culture of New Orleans. Floats include "John Kennedy Toole," which has a large Ignatius from A Confederacy of Dunces on the front; a tribute to Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, John James Audubon, Walter Inglis Anderson, Clementine Hunter and Newcomb Pottery. The parade also will feature about a dozen marching bands, including the U.S. Marine band and another group comprised of musicians from various college bands. Walking heads will escort the king's float, and krewe lieutenants will ride on horses.

Argus


10 a.m.

Location:
Metairie
Theme: "Elvis"
Floats: 33
King: Doyle Barker
Queen: Hillary Gibbs
Throws: Stuffed hound dogs, rubber wrist bands in Mardi Gras colors, special Rockola medallion beads with record albums around them, Elvis cups, Elvis doubloons, Argus medallion beads

Parading since 1974, this 500-plus krewe will ride on 33 floats, most of them double-deckers, many themed after Elvis songs, including "Heartbreak Hotel," "Don't Be Cruel," "Viva Las Vegas," "Love Me Tender" and "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog." CNN reporter Hoda Kotb, formerly of WWL-TV, is the grand marshal, and pop band The Click Five will ride along as well as play at a private overnight party for high school bands that participate in a band contest during the parade that will yield the winner $5,000, courtesy B-97. Argus also will include a float Pat Taylor purchased before he died to be ridden by military special forces members, both active and retired

Grela


11 a.m.

Location:
West Bank
Theme: "Grela Tours New Orleans"
Floats: 24
King: Ricky Templet
Queen: Christy Templet
Throws: Teddy bears, footballs, jester dolls, Grand Marshall cups, and long beads.

Grela has temporarily adopted members of the NOMTOC, Aladdin, and Cleopatra krewes, so this will be their largest parade yet. There are a number of super floats rolling in this New Orleans-inspired theme, but there's no question which one will be the most endearing. The krewe annually invites handicapped children to ride on one of their floats, and this year children with Down's syndrome will be riding on the "Coffee, Donuts, and Beignets French Quarter" float. Templet and his wife, Christy, are repeating as king and queen since there wasn't sufficient time to name royalty for 2006.

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