Ed Muniz excelled in three very distinct arenas — Mardi Gras, politics and business — leaving his mark on all three. But Muniz, who died May 20 at the age of 83, will be remembered most fondly for his indelible imprint on Mardi Gras as the founder and decadeslong captain of the super-sized Krewe of Endymion.
As a kid growing up in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans, Muniz was a self-described “parade nut.” He got the idea for Endymion, which he named after a horse he once bet on at the Fair Grounds, when the Krewe of Adonis ceased parading on the Saturday night before Fat Tuesday in the mid-1960s.
Endymion debuted as a neighborhood parade in Gentilly in 1966. Within a decade, Muniz built it into a “superkrewe” that drew crowds rivaling those on Fat Tuesday.
What made Endymion so popular is what distinguished it from the old-line krewes: open membership that ran into the thousands; flashy tandem floats that stretched almost a city block; Hollywood celebrities serving as grand marshals (a hallmark Muniz borrowed from the Krewe of Bacchus); and an all-night, post-parade "Extravaganza" attended by some 20,000 revelers in formal attire.
Muniz's vision of Mardi Gras was simple: Bigger always meant better.
Arthur Hardy, publisher of the eponymous Mardi Gras Guide, called Endymion’s transformation “the result of pure genius.” Hardy rightly predicted that Muniz would be remembered as "one of the most significant figures in the history of Mardi Gras.”
Away from the Mid-City parade route, Muniz served honorably for nearly three decades as an elected official in Jefferson Parish, including a single term as Kenner mayor and several terms each on the Kenner City Council and the Jefferson Parish Council. As a businessman, he bought several radio stations, built them into a broadcasting powerhouse and sold them for millions years later — but maintained a modest lifestyle.
Barely a week before Muniz died, Delgado Community College opened the Endymion Garden on its main campus near the krewe’s starting point along Marconi Drive at Orleans Avenue. It features a 7-foot statue of Muniz, crafted by Kern Studios, walking hand-in-hand with Endymion's cartoon mascot.
That seems fitting. In Mardi Gras lore, Ed Muniz will long be remembered as larger than life.