With Fat Tuesday falling 16 days earlier in 2015 than last year, the Mardi Gras parade season has crept up on many people. But all signs point to a terrific year.
Parading clubs are reporting record membership for 2015, with Endymion boasting 3,000 members, Thoth 1,600, Nyx 1,511, Bacchus 1,450, Iris 1,310 and Tucks 1,200. The big have gotten bigger, but smaller clubs such as Cleopatra and Carrollton are also enjoying record growth.
Comings and Goings
In light of declining membership and sparse crowds along their routes, the krewes of Thor, Atlas and Zeus bowed out in Jefferson Parish, bringing to a close a combined 140 years of parading tradition. For the first time since 1975, Metairie will not have a parade scheduled on the day before Mardi Gras.
In all, 25 clubs have folded over the past 17 years, but with every departure comes an influx of new talent, new energy and new ideas. Two new female parading krewes, both predominately African-American, will debut in 2015. The Krewe of Athena Carnival Club Inc. was granted a Jefferson Parish parade permit to follow Excalibur on the opening night of the parade season. In spite of a moratorium on new parades, the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale received approval by the New Orleans City Council to parade Sunday, Feb. 8, as the fourth parade that day on the traditional Uptown route. The addition of these new clubs further expands the first parading weekend’s calendar, which now features 20 parades in a three-parish area.
Carnival’s oldest gay club, the Krewe of Petronius, announced the cancellation of its ball for 2015. The group hopes to return in 2016.
According to the NOPD, the 32 parades that travel on Napoleon Avenue will not be affected by the ongoing construction project in the area. However, the space on the neutral ground for parade watchers will be limited to about 6 feet. No ladders will be allowed.
New this year
Rex will add a new wrinkle to its Lundi Gras entrance this year by arriving, not by boat on the river, but aboard elegantly decorated vintage railroad cars.
For the first time in its 82-year history, the Krewe of Alla will welcome female riders.
The city of New Orleans is sponsoring “Carnival on the Square,” a Family Gras-like event that hosts free concerts in Lafayette Square before the parades on the first weekend of the season.
Endymion unveils a new tandem float near the end of the 2015 parade that features a HD video wall. The new E-TV (Endymion TV) float will be made up of 30 LED panels and three video screens — two for live video shots of the crowds and one for graphics. Tickets to its post-parade party at the Superdome, all 20,000 of them, are sold out.
Gallier Hall has served as the city’s official reviewing stand for Mardi Gras parades for most of the past century-and-a-half, but it will not be available in 2015 due to safety concerns. A large chunk of the top façade fell off the building, crushing the steps below. Extensive repairs may be necessary. The mayor will toast krewe royalty from the reviewing stands next to Gallier Hall.
Celebrities set to ride in 2015 include country music superstars Luke Bryan in Endymion and Dierks Bentley in Orpheus. Reigning as Bacchus XLVII is actor John C. Reilly.
The Krewe of Isis, a mainstay in Jefferson Parish for more than 40 years, has no plans to change its name in response to current events in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Order of Isis in Mobile is going to parade under the name OOI for the foreseeable future.
Several krewes celebrate anniversaries this year, none more significant than the oldest walking club, the Jefferson City Buzzards, who hit the 125-year mark. And the Budweiser Clydesdales will make their 50th appearance in parades this year.
In an odd juxtaposition of dates, Valentine’s Day and Friday the 13th fall on the weekend before Fat Tuesday. Look for several parades to take advantage of this coincidence in their parade themes and in their throws.
The New Orleans Advocate deepens its Mardi Gras commitment by producing Carnival Bulletins for more than a dozen krewes in 2015.
In 2014 horrible weather dampened 25 percent of the parades and made for an unusually soggy Fat Tuesday. While it’s too early to predict this year’s weather, the last time Carnival day fell on February 17 was 1953. Two-tenths of an inch of rain fell that day and temperatures ranged from a low of 46 degrees to a high of 63 degrees.
If 2014 was any indication, the true believers will be out in force no matter what Mother Nature has to say.