The big day is finally here, with wall-to-wall parades, preceded by the historic walking clubs of New Orleans — the Jefferson City Buzzards, the Lyons Club, the Corner Club, Pete Fountain’s Half-Fast Walking Club and Mondo Kayo.
Starting off the parades, as usual, is Zulu, this year titled “Zulu Salutes Nelson Mandela.” Some 45 floats and more than 100 units traditionally appear in the procession.
Zulu’s legendary characters — the Big Shot, Witch Doctor, Ambassador and Governor — each ride on their own signature float. Other signature floats include Mr. Big Stuff, Mayor and Province Prince. Zulu’s 25 maids are also presented in the parade.
The club’s members and their riding guests throw a wide assortment of Zulu throws, but the most anticipated catch of the season is the treasured coconuts, which are handed to lucky parade watchers. The Zulu ball is always held at the Morial Convention Center on the Friday night before the parade.
Rex? the oldest parading Carnival organization, presents its 133rd parade on Fat Tuesday. Led by the Rex captain and lieutenants on horseback, the king of Carnival and his Rex procession bring beauty and tradition to the streets of New Orleans. Using traditional materials, the Rex floats are rebuilt each year on old wagon chassis with wooden-spoke wheels. This year’s theme is “Gods of All Ages.”
The king of Carnival will be preceded by the U.S. Marine Band and the Ross Volunteers of Texas A&M. The new Butterfly King float returns, along with the iconic King’s Float, Jester and Boeuf Gras floats. The parade also features a band contest. New Rex throws tossed by the 455 riding members include riding crops handed out by the horseback-riding lieutenants. Each float will have its own unique medallion bead necklace reflecting the theme of that float. Cups, bracelets, beads and plush toys will feature the Streetcar Named Desire float.
The revitalized Krewe of Grela returned to the parade calendar last year after a one-year absence. The club reports a membership of 350 and plans to mount a parade of more than 18 floats that portray the theme “All Hail the King.” Float titles include the King of Rock and Roll, King of the Jungle, King of Hearts and King Cake. Grela throws include cups, slap bracelets, footballs and doubloons in five colors.
Argus celebrates its 42nd anniversary with a Metairie parade that features more than 600 men, women and children. The club owns all of its floats. This year’s theme is “Argus … The Story Teller.” Reigning as king is Jefferson Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse.
Argus logo throws include footballs, cups, plush animals and doubloons in five colors. New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan rides as guest grand marshal.
If you simply cannot say goodbye to Carnival, stick around for the truck parades. In New Orleans, the Elks Orleanians and Crescent City processions follow Rex, and in Jefferson, the Elks Jeffersonians and Krewe of Jefferson trucks follow Argus.
Then start making plans for Mardi Gras 2015. Fat Tuesday next year is Feb. 17.