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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rex paraded in Uptown Feb. 13

Posted By and on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 3:22 PM

click to enlarge The John James Audubon float featured a giant pelican. - PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS / UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS / UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • The John James Audubon float featured a giant pelican.

New Orleans' tricentennial anniversary may have provided the backdrop for the 2018 Rex parade in Uptown Feb. 13, but unlike other krewes who reviewed the city's entire history, Rex looked to the city's early days for inspiration. In fact, “L’Ancienne Nouvelle-Orléans” covered only about the first third of the city's 300 years, with floats focusing on dates from 1682 (a few decades before the city's founding) to 1815.

click to enlarge One float marked the French Quarter fire of 1788. - PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS / UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS / UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • One float marked the French Quarter fire of 1788.

Following Rex's beautiful signature floats like the Boeuf Gras, the King's Jesters and the Butterfly King, the School of Design's history lesson began, like the city itself, with “Father Mississippi” and the “Chitimacha Indians,” a reminder that the history of the place predates those currently writing it. Following them were the requisite explorers, engineers, socialites and landmarks that still provide the city with its name and identity.

There also werea a few surprises. The “Good Friday Fire of 1788” float was particularly effective, with its burning building frontpiece and flaming adornments perfectly coordinated with the riders' costumes to create a memorable visual conflagration. Notably, a number of the floats also included secondary sculptures at the rear, such as Marie Laveaux's skull and candle, or John James Audubon's pelican. They were dramatic enough in their own right to have functioned as the head of many other krewes' floats.
click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS / UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS / UPTOWN MESSENGER

As much as New Orleans' history has been re-litigated in the public arena over the last few years, it's worth taking a moment to examine how Rex treated the subject. For the most part, “L’Ancienne Nouvelle-Orleans” sidestepped it. The parade's timeline halted before the most controversial Civil War era, excluding the period that later inspired monuments to Confederate leaders. Henriette DeLille, a Creole woman who provided care to the poor, was honored on a float, but the parade did not provide any other overt mention of black New Orleanians during that time, such as their contributions to the construction of the city or the city's role in the slave trade, a frequent omission that the celebrated novelist Jesmyn Ward will make the subject of her next book. The parade did give due to many of the city's pioneering women, such as the Baronness Pontalba, the Ursuline nuns and Les Filles de la Cassette.
click to enlarge One float featured Les Filles de la Cassette, who moved to colonial Louisiana. - PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS / UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS / UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • One float featured Les Filles de la Cassette, who moved to colonial Louisiana.

Floats aside, the parade benefited from weather that many other Mardi Gras days would envy. The chilly morning that greeted Zulu gave way to nearly balmy temperatures in the 70s, with parade-goers shedding their coats.

From the standpoint of throws, Rex has continued to double down on its use of float-specific beads, largely to the delight of crowds. As each float passed, cries for “float beads” rose up alongside it, and the riders obliged. Anyone trying to collect a medallion commemorating each float from Rex 2018 likely succeeded, and the names and dates of each historical event depicted were helpfully stamped on the back for anyone interested in finishing the history lesson of “L’Ancienne Nouvelle-Orleans” at home.

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