Arthur Hardy: Babylon, Chaos, Muses take to streets Thursday _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The Knights of Babylon rolled Feb. 7, 2013, in uptown New Orleans with the theme "Land of Dreams." Here the float "Rip Van Winkle" travels up Napoleon Avenue.

The long Mardi Gras weekend begins Thursday with a trio of parades that represent three centuries of parading lineage. Nearly 70 floats will roll on the Uptown route. Note that all three are starting 15 minutes earlier this year.

The Knights of Babylon celebrates its 75th anniversary with a reflective theme and a salute to a recently departed key figure in the club’s history. Led by their captain and 12 lieutenants riding on horseback, the 250-member krewe presents a 21-float procession. King Sargon LXIX’s float is mule-drawn and is surrounded by flambeaux. Special signature floats include the Official Knights Streetcar, Jesters’ Jazz and the new Babylonian Barge. Masks were created and designed by Raphael Academy to correlate with the costumes. Krewe logo throws include jester hats and bracelets. The Knights’ most collectible throw will be new LED 75th anniversary rings.

Although founded in 2000, the Knights of Chaos is a reincarnation of the Knights of Momus, which paraded from 1872 to 1991. This all-male group is made up of some former members of that club and other krewes. Chaos purchased the old Momus floats, which are decorated by Royal Artists. The theme of the 16-float parade remains a secret until the night of the procession.

The identity of the king, named Number One, is never revealed. The 225 men always deliver a Momus-style satirical parade that pokes fun at people and institutions. Look for the captain and his lieutenants on horseback. Chaos throws float-specific cards and cups, plush swords and shields, aluminum and periwinkle blue anodized doubloons, lighted swords, and two new secret theme-related throws. Flambeaux are traditionally featured in the procession.

Since it first exploded on the scene in 2004, the Krewe of Muses has enjoyed making waves, first by proving that women could form a super krewe, then by increasing the size and improving the quality of every aspect of their parade. The Muses show quickly became iconic, and the addition of bawdily named female marching groups has become a Muses trademark. The 1,030 female-member club promises a 26-float procession with a very fashionable but secret theme.

The parade features more than 80 units, including several walking clubs and Muses’ signature floats: the Shoe, which employs state-of-the-art fiber optic lighting, and the Bathtub, a giant bubble-filled bathtub full of bathing Muses. The club produces an incredible assortment of more than 30 krewe-logo items, including shoe bracelets, “reMuseable” totes, strobe theme beads, rhinestone bracelets and diamond rings.

New collectibles this year include wearable Muses parade balloons, light-up Mardi Gras stickers and the Shoe Collection — the first in an annual series — which immortalizes four of their most amazing glitter shoes. The Sirens float, the final one in the parade, is one of the season’s best and is worth waiting for.