On your marks. Get set. Throw!
Kicking off a Carnival season that will be a sprint to this year’s early Mardi Gras, Mayor Mitch Landrieu held the city’s formal celebration of Kings Day on Wednesday with a ceremonial cutting of king cake, the unveiling of the official proclamations and posters from the Rex and Zulu organizations — and plenty of brass band music.
The start of the season comes just five weeks before Mardi Gras on Feb. 9, meaning a jam-packed rush is in store.
“This century-old Carnival tradition goes back as far as it can go back. It celebrates our culture and our life,” Landrieu said. “I know they try to celebrate it other places, but they really don’t get it right like we do, do they?”
While one of the shortest Carnivals in memory — the earliest possible date for Mardi Gras is Feb. 3 — the season will be packed with excitement, said Arthur Hardy, publisher of Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide, which is celebrating its 40th year.
This year’s season brings three new suburban krewes: the Krewe of Pandora, an offshoot of New Orleans’ Mystic Krewe of Nyx that will parade in Jefferson Parish on Lundi Gras; Slidell’s Krewe of Poseidon, which rolls on Sunday; and the return of Mandeville’s Original Orpheus on Feb. 5.
Endymion, Carnival’s largest superkrewe, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a parade featuring the new Club Endymion float, which features a giant screen and lights on a replica of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Following the parade, Pitbull and Steven Tyler will perform at the Endymion Extravaganza in the actual Superdome, an event that already has sold 25,000 tickets, Hardy said.
The quick season brings challenges for the city’s tourism industry.
No spring breaks fall early enough to allow collegiate revelers to come for the festivities, and businesses that bank on the holiday for sales may feel a pinch from the early Mardi Gras, Hardy said.
“If you can only make 500 king cakes a day, you’d rather have a 60-day season,” he said.
Some other questions remain. Bacchus and New Orleans’ Orpheus have yet to announce their celebrity royalty, something that is usually set and done well before this close to the parades.
“It’s very late in the game. They’re certainly going to have somebody, but the later it goes the harder it is to attract a mainline celebrity,” Hardy said.
On the other hand, he noted that as those parades have grown, they “don’t really need celebrity monarchs, they’re so fantastic on their own.”