Richard Campanella, one of the great chroniclers of New Orleans, never dreamed he’d be king of Krewe du Vieux.

“It’s a complete surprise and an honor,” said Campanella, a geographer and author at the Tulane School of Architecture.

“I’m an introvert,” Campanella said. “Usually, I’m the guy leaning against the wall 200 feet from the parade, observing. I love Mardi Gras, but I’ve never been in a krewe or ridden on a float, much less served as king. This is outside my comfort zone, but that’s a good thing.”

The irreverent, brass band-accompanied Krewe du Vieux parades at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27. The 19-float procession begins on Decatur Street in the Marigny and continues through the French Quarter to 519 Toulouse St., site of this year’s Krewe du Vieux ball. Morning 40 Federation and Khris Royal and the Big Booty Express will perform at the ball. Doors open at 10 p.m. Tickets are $50.

Campanella’s 10 books and more than 200 articles about New Orleans inspired Krewe du Vieux to crown him king in 2018, New Orleans’ tricentennial year.

“Richard has written such wonderful books, telling us so much that we didn’t know about our own city,” said Mac Hall, Krewe du Vieux Captain of Vice.

Campanella’s books include 2008’s “Bienville’s Dilemma,” a geographical history of New Orleans. Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, the French explorer and colonial governor of Louisiana, founded New Orleans. Accordingly, Krewe du Vieux’s theme this year is “Bienville’s Wet Dream.”

“Bienville certainly had a dream and a vision for this city,” Campanella said.  "As a colonial capital, New Orleans could have ended up in any number of locations, including Bayou Manchac near Baton Rouge. Most French colonials were opposed to Bienville’s site for New Orleans. Bienville, for better or worse, championed this site. We’d have an entirely different geography and history were it not for him.”

Campanella, the historian, appreciates Krewe du Vieux’s satirical edge.

“Satire plays a key role in Mardi Gras,” he said. “It makes all the frivolity creative, clever and relevant.”

While Krewe du Vieux officials are naturally cagey about details, this year’s parade and its topics include the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans and the #MeToo Twitter campaign. As usual, too, the parade will have a hand-crafted, do-it-yourself aesthetic.

“We don’t hire anyone to make our floats,” Hall said. “And the floats are hand-drawn or mule- drawn. And we’re the only krewe with floats, besides krewedelusion, which follows us, that goes through the French Quarter.”

Beads, those ubiquitous Mardi Gras throws, are almost taboo at Krewe du Vieux.

“We prefer for our krewes to make their own throws and have them be related to their themes,” Hall said.

An image of King Campanella appears on this year’s Krewe du Vieux cups.

“I stay fascinated with New Orleans,” the author and academic said. “The more I learn about this city, the more I realize I don’t know. That’s a humbling, motivating feeling.”

For more info, see kreweduvieux.org.

Krewedelusion follows Krewe du Vieux through Bywater, Marigny and the French Quarter. Adhering to satirical parade traditions, krewedelusion’s mission is to save the universe, beginning with the center of the universe, New Orleans. The TrySinTennial Bedlam Ball at the Ace Hotel follows the parade. Visit krewedelusion.org.

OTHER WEEKEND PARADES

Krewe of Poseidon

A community-oriented event in Slidell, the Krewe of Poseidon parade rolls at 6 p.m. Saturday, January 27. Founded in 2015 by Slidell residents who sought a revitalization of Carnival on the north shore, the co-ed Krewe of Poseidon seeks to bring residents of Slidell and surrounding areas a parade that honors the Mardi Gras traditions of New Orleans. poseidonslidell.com.

Krewe of Bilge

Featuring boats rather than floats, the 40th anniversary edition of Bilge begins and ends at the Marina Cafe near Slidell's Eden Isles. 11 a.m. Saturday. kreweofbilge.com 

Krewe of Little Rascals

A children’s parade in Metairie, the Krewe of Little Rascals rolls at noon Sunday, Jan. 28. The parade begins on Veterans Boulevard at the Clearview Shopping Center and ends at Martin Behrman Avenue. Founded in 1983, Little Rascals is the longest running children’s parade in the United States. Members are 4 to 19 years old. kreweoflittlerascals.com.

Krewe of Slidellians

Sponsored by the Slidell Women’s Civic Club, Krewe of Slidellians parades at 1 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 28. Following the traditional Slidell parade route, Krewe of Slidellians begins at the intersection of Berkley Street and Spartan Drive.

Mystic Krewe of Perseus

Founded in 1970, the Mystic Krewe of Perseus is Slidell’s oldest Mardi Gras krewe. It began for the purpose of bringing a genuine Mardi Gras ball, tableau and parade to Slidell. The Perseus parade rolls at 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28, starting at intersection of Berkley Street and Spartan Drive.

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