For the thousands of people who descended on the streets of New Orleans to enjoy the city’s Lundi Gras festivities, Monday’s warm-up was just as good as Fat Tuesday’s main act.
“Lundi Gras is my favorite part of the season,” said Leroy Washington Jr., of Lutcher, who drove into town Monday for the riverfront celebrations and the final evening parades of the Carnival season. “Everybody’s always enjoying themselves.”
And there was a lot to enjoy — whether it was the twin parties at Woldenberg Riverfront Park and in Spanish Plaza, filled with food, musicians and appearances by the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s characters; the toasts of Carnival monarchs; or the evening parades of the krewes of Proteus and Orpheus.
Unlike the blustery winds that chilled Lundi Gras revelers last year, Monday's weather was ideal. Mild temperatures and a light breeze persisted throughout the afternoon, while clouds shielded the crowds from the sun. Although forecasts had said there was a good chance of rain, the area remained dry for most of the day.
That was good news for the king of Zulu, Adonis Exposé, and Rex, King of Carnival, Stephen Hales, who were set to arrive by boat and train, respectively, to cheering Spanish Plaza crowds early Monday evening.
The two monarchs will lead their organizations’ parades along the city’s streets Tuesday to wrap up the public phase of Carnival.
Exposé had a packed schedule Monday. In the morning, he and his queen, Donna Marie Glapion, headed to the Rivertown section of Kenner to meet the man and woman who will reign as king and queen of the Krewe of Argus' Metairie parade on Tuesday, Elie Khoury and Robin Marie Chailland.
Hales also had a king to toast just before he boarded the train taking him to Spanish Plaza, courtesy of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. He joined the 2017 King of Proteus at that krewe’s den on Bordeaux Street late Monday afternoon, shortly before its parade hit the streets.
It was the second toast ever between Rex and Proteus, which never reveals the identity of its king. The meeting of the two organizations, which are New Orleans’ two oldest parading krewes, began last year, and is meant to celebrate their historical ties, a Rex spokesman said.
Many plebeians of Carnival, too, had history and traditions to celebrate.
Take Gaynell Becnel, Connie Hotard, Norma Lasseigne and Jane Rome, of St. Charles Parish, who could be seen strutting in Spanish Plaza on Monday morning in green wigs and purple, green and gold tutus. The women, in their late 60s or early 70s, have celebrated Lundi Gras together for almost two decades.
“We love the music,” said Rome, 69. “We love the bands. We like to see Rex and Zulu, and we like the pretty fireworks.”
Not to mention the Orpheus parade, founded 24 years ago by musician and actor Harry Connick Jr., former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. and Sonny Borey.
Later in the day, Connick Jr. and Borey were cheered by the superkrewe’s 1,400 members in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center just before they boarded the 30 floats that would follow the Proteus parade that night.
Reigning as celebrity monarchs for Orpheus this year are Will Forte and fellow cast members of the Fox sitcom, "Last Man on Earth"; Jimmi Simpson and Evan Rachel Wood of the HBO drama "Westworld"; and singer Bret Michaels, who also was to perform at the krewe’s annual ball that night, the Orpheuscapade.
The Temptations, the legendary singing group that began in Detroit in the 1960s, also were to perform.