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Masking in the Glory 

Mardi Gras parade routes and revelry

Greeting, rollicking revelers! As our fair city springs to life with floats, throws, king cakes and costumes, I, Rex DukeTM, connoisseur of Carnival conviviality, once again sally forth with pen in hand and parade shoes on feet to document the niceties of every proud procession that will grace our streets in 2004. So, ardent subjects, consider this guide as essential a parade-viewing item as a deep cooler or a lofty ladder while you determine which throws to lunge for, which celebrity riders to cheer on, which floats to admire and which themes to anticipate. Read on to choose which parades you will deem as de rigueur this season -- unless you're like me, whose annual mission is to relish each and every procession of Carnival. Why not? Mardi Gras comes but once a year, so behold Week One in all its splendor.



6 p.m.

Location: Uptown
Theme: "Let's Dance"
Floats: 16
King: Wilbert Smith
Queen: Elizabeth Ware Small
Throws: Multi-colored cups, flashing light beads, medallion necklaces

The 250 riders of Oshun will keep the groove going with floats representing the various dance crazes of the last century, including the Charleston, the jitterbug, and the electric slide. The seven bands will compete in a band contest, and several dance troupes will shake and shimmy to the music. The two grand marshals, blues master Big Al Carson and gospel singer Joe "Cool" Davis, will ride on the first Uptown parade of the year.

6:30 p.m.

Location: West Bank
Theme: "I Could Have Danced All Night"
Floats: 23
King: None
Queen: Mary Spencer Martin
Throws: Logo beads, flying discs, soccer balls, baseballs, backpacks

The Cleopatra parade opens the carnival season on the West Bank with a celebration of dances from around the world, with floats entitled "Cha-Cha" and "Samba" providing some Latin rhythms, "All That Jazz" tapping into New Orleans roots, and "Kabuki" showcasing Japanese traditions. More than 20 bands will keep the beat for the ladies on the all-female floats, over which Cleopatra rules in solitary splendor.

7 p.m.

Location: Metairie
Theme: "Cartoon Capers"
Number of Floats: 16
King: Stephen Schneller
Queen: Mary Nell Schneller
Throws: Medallion beads, bobbing-head dolls, logo key chains, logo cups, frisbees

The 200 riders of Atlas take to the streets this year in an especially family-oriented parade with such kid-pleasing floats as "Jungle Book," "The Lion King," "Scooby Doo," and "E.T." This enduring Jefferson Parish krewe also promises eight marching bands, six dance groups and two horse groups to fill out its ranks.

Location: Uptown
Theme: "Pygmalion Salutes Monarchs in Time"
Floats: 17
King: Dominick O. Weilbaecher
Queen: Nicole LeBlanc
Throws: Glow-in-the-dark cups, 3-D medallion necklaces, logo soccer balls

The 250 krewe riders will be carried on their route by brand-new floats, constructed for Pygmalion's fifth year in operation. The mayor of Kenner, Dominick Weilbaecher, will preside over the parade's salute to great leaders throughout history, with floats entitled "Queen Elizabeth," "Caesar," "Cleopatra," and "Henry the VIII." Ten marching bands and several dance teams will keep things hopping even if forward motion should stall.



Location: West Bank
Theme: "Aladdin Wishes Come True"
Floats: 21
Prince Aladdin V: Elvin Frederick Munster
Queen: Janet Hammons Riley
Throws: Aladdin and Princess Jasmine dolls

This West Bank parade shows the delightful results of rubbing Aladdin's famous lamp, with floats representing the dearest wishes of some riders. Individual themes include "Going Fishing After Retirement," "Vacation to the Grand Cayman," and "NASCAR Racing." Among the 445 riders, look for such special guests as the bands Bag O' Donuts and Benny Grunch & the Bunch, and six New Orleans Saints players including offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley and center Jerry Fontenot.

Location: Uptown
Theme: "Who Loves Ya, Baby?"
Floats: 15
King: Brent James Laliberte
Queen: Michelle Leigh Noel Duplantier
Throws: Valentine's Day beads, 22-oz. black cups, medallion necklaces

The Pontchartrain parade plays on the convergence of Mardi Gras and Valentine's Day with floats that represent valentines from famous sweethearts. Lois Lane, Olive Oyl and Maid Marion all get valentines from men who love them; can you match up the senders? In its 29th year, Pontchartrain will send 275 riders down St. Charles Avenue, and the parade's 10 marching bands will compete in a band contest.

1 p.m.

Location: Uptown
Theme: "Vamps & Vixens"
Floats: 21
King: Marion R. Hill, Jr.
Queen: Wanda Springer VonVoss
Throws: Heart beads, plush stuffed frogs, teddy bears with hearts

Shangri-La is celebrating its 31st year, and its third year since it relocated from St. Bernard Parish to New Orleans. Bystanders will catch an eyeful as the "Marilyn Monroe" float goes by, with riders in white halter dresses and blond wigs. If you get close to the "Dolly Parton" float you may be lucky enough to catch a rubber chicken (in honor of Dolly's role as the madam of the Chicken Ranch brothel in a certain movie.) Silky O'Sullivan, the proprietor of his eponymous music clubs on Decatur Street and in Memphis, will ride as grand marshal.

6 p.m.


Location: Metairie
Theme: "Meant for Each Other"
Floats: 31
King: Randal Lewis
Queen: Lauren Zuppardo
Throws: Caesar mascot dolls, Hydra dolls, blinking heart Valentine's Day beads, cups, doubloons

This mammoth, 800-rider parade will put on a show this year with its new 150-foot long float, the Hydra, which is the first float in Metairie equipped with fiber optics. None other than SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, both courtesy of Nickelodeon, will ride as grand marshals on a special float at the front of the parade. For Caesar's 25th anniversary, the parade takes a tongue-in-cheek look at fateful parings with floats titled "Napoleon and Josephine," "Kermit and Miss Piggy," and "Peanut Butter and Jelly."

Location: Uptown
Theme: "A Starry, Starry Night"
Floats: 18
King: Kevin J. McNeely
Queen: Monique C. Rodrigue
Throws: medallion beads, jumbo hand-painted medallion beads, multicolored cups, heart beads, Valentine's Day doubloons

The constellations from the night sky are represented in this Uptown parade, with floats representing Aries, Leo, Scorpio, Orion, and Taurus, among others. Special riders will include a prince and princess from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, in Sparta's tradition of honoring two children with this condition every year, as well as several U.S. servicemen and women who have just returned from Iraq and are getting the R&R they deserve.

6:45 p.m.


Location: Uptown
Theme: "What's Love Got To Do With It?"
Floats: 15
King: Secret until ball on Friday, Feb. 13
Queen: Kristine Kopecky
Throws: Pegasus medallions, footballs and frisbees embossed with the winged horse; "Pegasus Loves You" stuffed hearts, wooden horseshoes, stuffed "Pegaponies," stuffed animals and toys

The theme pays tribute to both its parade date and the city's love for music, with Grand Marshal Allen Toussaint leading the 15-float procession and local musicians Irene Sage and John Taglieri on board as celebrity riders. Floats include "Love at First (Sound) Bite," and double-deckers with the themes of "Love Songs," "Tunnel of Love" and "Love Stories." There will be about 10 marching bands, two from as far away as Baltimore and Chicago, plus dance teams, dune buggies and a cowboy group.




Location: West Bank
Theme: "Alla's Masquerade"
Floats: 28
Maharajah: Paul Reed
Maharanee: Alexandra Sherman
Throws: "Coon-Ass" cups and beads, Beanie Babies, doubloons, Golden Griffon beads, doubloons (red is thrown by Maharajah, blue by Maharanee, aluminum ones have theme on them), cups, footballs, soccer balls, sippy cups, stuffed animals, toys

The West Bank's longest parade includes 28 floats -- including three tandems -- 25 marching bands (some from as far away as Michigan, Chicago and Texas), the AllaJam band contest, equestrian groups and local drill teams. Floats, about eight of which have motor-driven animated units on them, include "Masks of Mardi Gras," "Ivory Coast Masks," "Western Masks," "Celtic Masks," and "Masks of Egypt" as well as the annual favorite "AllaGator" and the new "ElkGator" honoring Plaquemines Parish.


Location: Uptown
Theme: "Streets on Parade"
Floats: 23
King: Richard Catoire
Queen: Brittni Williamson
Throws: Doubloons (krewe throws purple and green, officers and captain throw blue), individual float medallion beads, 3-D krewe medallion beads, squeeze bottles, stuffed animals, toys

Celebrating its 80th anniversary, the traditional old-line krewe honors the streets of the city with floats -- one a double-decker with 60 riders -- named for throughways including "Carrollton Avenue," "Pirate's Alley," "Bourbon Street," "St. Charles Avenue" and more. There will be more than a dozen marching bands, two dance groups and a horse unit.

1:15 p.m.

King Arthur

Location: Uptown
Theme: "Magical Memories of Mother Goose"
Floats: 23
King Arthur: Brian Mark Becnel
Queen Guinevere: Mary Lee Coombs
Throws: Medallion beads for each float, stuffed animals (some with the krewe's emblem), cups, toys, and doubloons in Mardi Gras colors as well as in blue, maroon, red and pewter

The 27-year-old King Arthur, which paraded on the West Bank until three years ago, this year has floats named after nursery rhymes such as "Humpty Dumpty," "Mother Goose" and "Hickory Dickory Dock." Bands and dance teams are included in the parade.

2:30 p.m.

Bards of Bohemia

Location: Uptown
Theme: "Have We Got a Story For You!"
Floats: 17
King: Daniel Smith
Queen: Jessica Noel Gustin
Throws: New Orleans Saints fleur-de-lis beads, New Orleans VooDoo beads, long beads, plush animals

This 250-member krewe features WWL personality Andre Trevigne as its Great American Woman for this year. Guest riders include New Orleans Saints players, players and dancers from the New Orleans VooDoo arena football club, plus Rockin' Dopsie Jr. and other favorite local musicians. Floats include one of Napoleon called "New Orleans Where?," another of Genghis Khan titled "Ultimate Party Animal" and others in the image of Louis XIV, Julius Caesar, and Montezuma named, respectively, "Take a Little Off the Top," "Where's My Dagger-Proof Vest?" and "Tap Water, Anyone?"

Location: Metairie
No parade information available at press time.

4 p.m.


Location: Metairie
Theme: "Mercury's Fantasyland"
Floats: 15
King: Patrick Layus
Queen: Angelle Suhor
Throws: Turquoise "Super Sunday" medallion beads, limited-edition Mercury cups

The three Metairie krewes rolling on this "Super Parade Sunday" -- Rhea, Mercury and Centurions -- are throwing special Super Sunday medallion beads, all shaped the same but in different colors. The krewe's 200+ members will ride on fantasy-themed floats such as "Dreams of Shangri La," "Sailing to Hawaii," "A Royal Flush," and a favorite during February cold snaps -- "Springtime Fantasies." The captain's band this year will be the Louisiana Leadership Institute's 160-member All-Star Marching Band, which recently took home a prestigious prize from a U.S. Army contest.

5:30 p.m.


Location: Metairie
Theme: "Everything That's Silver"
Floats: 23
King: Norman Raymond Bourgeois, Jr.
Queen: Maria Angelina Castellon
Throws: Centurions medallion beads, gold "Super Sunday" medallion beads, theme cups, balloons, a stuffed cloth sword that says "Centurions 25th anniversary."

As they've done for a quarter-century now, the Centurions will follow their traditional night parade route along Veterans. They'll toss special silver anniversary throws in a procession with more than a dozen marching bands, led as usual by the captain's band from Archbishop Rummel High School. The floats play on the word silver -- "Silver Streak," "Silver Screen" and "Silver Bells," to name a few. Dukes and maids will depict scenes from the year 1979 including the space mission to Jupiter, Kentucky Derby winner Spectacular Bid, and the TV series Happy Days, which started that year.

click to enlarge PHILIP GOULD


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