With Fat Tuesday falling on Feb. 17 this year, the opening of the official parade schedule arrives 16 days earlier than in 2014. Twenty parades are set to roll this weekend in a four-parish area, an all-time record.
Friday night offers the first chance to see how construction on Napoleon Avenue will affect crowds this year. Also new will be the city’s official toasting site, which has been moved over a few feet in front of the old Soule College building because of renovations to Gallier Hall.
“Carnival on the Square,” a series of preparade concerts across from Gallier Hall at Lafayette Square, starts at 4 p.m. Friday, with the Free Agents Brass Band and Big Sam’s Funky Nation on the lineup.
The Krewe of Oshun kicks off the night’s parades with its 19th annual presentation, titled “Carnival Around the World.”
Following Oshun is the 42nd annual Cleopatra procession, titled “Nightmare on the Avenue.” This female club moved across the river from the West Bank in 2013 and nearly doubled its membership to 700. The club is known for its generosity with throws, including LED fans, head boppers, wands and acrylic glasses. Look for 20 floats and nearly 70 units.
In Metairie, Family Gras starts with entertainment by the NOLA Supergroup at 5 p.m. and Allen Toussaint at 7 p.m.
This year’s 14th annual Excalibur procession rolls with 19 floats and the theme “A Knight’s Sweet Delights.” The signature collars and costumes, which the captain designed, are highlights of the parade. The club’s 275 men and women will hand out individually decorated wooden shields.
Much attention will be focused on Metairie’s newest parade and first African-American club, the female Krewe of Athena. Councilman Mark Spears gave $25,000 of his tourism funds to Athena to help it get started.
Jefferson Parish’s recent record with new parading krewes has not been successful. After it granted permits to Hera in 2013 and Atlantis in 2014, neither made it to the starting line. In recent years, Metairie also has lost its four oldest parades: Zeus, Rhea, Thor and Atlas.
Athena has promised to reverse this trend with a 17-float parade and the hopeful theme, “The First of Many.” The signature throw will be custom-designed fedora hats.
In Mandeville, the 350-woman Krewe of Eve will roll its 29th procession, titled “Theme Park Adventures.” Several out-of-state bands and marching units will compete in Eve’s annual band contest. Eve members create unique krewe costumes by decorating sweatshirts, and their signature throws always include several apple-themed items.