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Alternative Mardi Gras krewes to watch 

Shelby Hartman profiles the krewes of Cork, Chewbacchus, 'tit Rex and Barkus

click to enlarge The Death Star Steppers perform with the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus.

Photo by flickr user djeo | krewe of chewbacchus

The Death Star Steppers perform with the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus.

Carnival pageantry — from massive floats to ornate costumed royalty — formally begins this week with the krewes of Oshun and Cleopatra rolling Uptown. But smaller, dedicated DIY krewes are taking to the streets to give the Carnival season a more offbeat toast — maybe with a glass poured by masquerading wine worshippers. Here is a preview of this week's alt-krewe lineup.

Krewe of Cork
3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21
Royal Street between St. Peter and Toulouse streets
"You bring the wine, you eat the food, you have some fun," says Krewe of Cork King for Life Patrick van Hoorebeek. "It's as simple as that." This year, the wine-inspired krewe has 70 cases of sauvignon blanc, merlot and more for the celebration. They'll toast to port, the sweet red from Portugal. Vintner George Sandeman from Sandeman Vineyards is grand marshal. He'll parade as his vineyard's mascot "The Don," a mysterious Spanish caballero in a cape and wide-brimmed black hat. Other krewe members, as in past years, are getting crafty with throws made from recycled wine bottles. "Some people will dress with wine labels, others with corks ... everything is related to wine," Hoorebeek says.

Former grand marshals include vintners Clovis Taittinger, Robert Mondavi Jr. and Kathy Benziger. Devotees come from California, Champagne, France, and beyond for this three-day marathon that begins with a port dinner on Wednesday night at the JW Marriott (614 Canal St.) and ends at the Libation Ball at the Royal Sonesta (300 Bourbon St.) after the parade. The after-party includes a buffet, live music and bottomless pours of eight wines. Tickets are $75.

Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus
8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22
St. Ferdinand and N. Peters streets
The Star Wars- and science-fiction-themed Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus modeled this year's parade after its namesake's ultimate rival: Star Trek. "The Wrath of Khan-ival," a play on the second Star Trek film The Wrath of Khan, has all sorts of galactic plans ready for launch. Bar Ship Enterprise, modeled after the Starship Enterprise, is a fully mobile bar stocked with "photon torpedo Jell-O shots," "Jim Beam me up shots" from an enormous glowing vat, and a keg of bright blue Romulan ale.

"We don't call them floats, we call them contraptions," says Space Commander and head of the krewe Ryan Ballard. He'll be at the front of the crowd in a lunar party rover. "It's basically an exact copy of the Apollo 17, but with crazy disco lights, an amazing sound system, projectors and air raid sirens," he says. "It's kind of the coolest thing I've ever built."

A parade highlight is the "The Mecca-Gator," a giant robotic alligator that breathes fire (pending city approval) and stomps on a miniature New Orleans. The 750-member krewe will land at The Trash Palace (2121 Chartres St.) for a bacchanal complete with four bands and a laser show. Tickets are $15, or $10 for those in costume.

Krewe of 'tit Rex Parade
5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22
St. Roch Avenue and N. Robertson Street

Bigger isn't always better. At least that's the idea behind Krewe of 'tit Rex. The krewe parades with itty-bitty floats as intricate as its well-known counterparts, but a fraction of the size. "We got the idea, because a lot of people from New Orleans had to make little floats out of shoeboxes as kids," says 'tit Rex President Jeremy Yuslum. "They get really excited when they come to the parade."

The U.S. Constitution inspires this year's theme "We The People." About 30 floats will roll in front of St. Roch Tavern (1200 St. Roch Ave.) in Bywater. Among them will be "Me The People," a mockery of modern narcissism covered in miniature selfies and iPhones, and "We The Peeple," a celebration of marshmallow Peeps. For throws, the krewe made miniature beads, bead bags, purses and dolls.

The parade makes its way to the AllWays Lounge (2240 St. Claude Ave.) for the Ping Pong Ball. At the bash, the floats will be presented onstage in the "Gallery of Smalls" and MC Sweet Tea will perform. Tickets $10

Mystic Krewe of Barkus
2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23
Louis Armstrong Park, N. Rampart Street and Orleans Avenue
"We are convinced that once dogs become royal dogs — you can laugh at us — but they will never be the same," says Mystic Krewe of Barkus spokeswoman Catherine Olivier. The krewe's heavily pampered canine king and queen begin their weekend at the Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St.), where there's a cocktail "pawty" in their honor, and they get a room for the night. Before the parade, the royal dogs lunch at Galatoire's. More than 1,200 dogs take over the French Quarter for the march — this year's Godzilla theme is "Barkus Licks the Crescent City."

As in past years, Olivier expects big groups of the same breed to show up in style together. "It's pretty amazing when you see a whole bunch of greyhounds or Great Danes," she says. Each pooch must register ahead of time. The krewe recommends owners sign up online or show up early Sunday morning. The parade will end at Louis Armstrong Park, where there will be drinks, live music and plenty of space for playing. Registration and party begin at 10:30 a.m. Membership is $40-$50 for one dog and escort.


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