Rex Duke™, the world's first and foremost parade critic, previews the first weekend of Carnival parades.
The first official parades of Carnival hit the streets this weekend, and Rex Duke™, New Orleans' foremost parade critic, looks forward to a season full of my favorite things: kings, queens, flambeaux, marching bands, lavishly decorated floats and more. The krewes celebrate everything from Louisiana's bicentennial to festivals from around the globe to popular music and more. Below are my previews of parade themes, routes, special throws, reigning monarchs and special guests. Enjoy!
Mardi Gras Week 1
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10
6 p.m. Friday
Theme: Child's Play
Shango: Ronald Joseph Lewis Jr.
Oshun: Deborah Singleton Rogers
Throws: light-up peacocks, krewe medallions
Oshun celebrates children's stories and rhymes in floats such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "A Tisket, A Tasket." Marching bands from O. Perry Walker High School, Warren Easton Charter High School and St. Mary's Academy join the procession. Guest riders include grand marshal Oliver Thomas, DJ Captain Charles and Tulane University football coach Curtis Johnson.
6:30 p.m. Friday
Location: West Bank
Theme: Cleopatra Tips Her Hat to Mardi Gras
Cleopatra: Kimberly Buck
Throws: beads with hat charms, cups, yard dogs, footballs
Cleopatra celebrates headgear on the opening night of the official parade calendar. Floats depict everything from Carnival hats to Southern Belles to LSU and New Orleans Saints helmets.
7 p.m. Friday
Theme: A Knight in China
King: Tom Stephens
Queen: Jamie Renton
Throws: chopsticks, fortune cookies, pagoda medallion beads, krewe cups and doubloons
The knights of Camelot and Ladies of Avalon celebrate the Chinese New Year with floats depicting creatures from the Chinese zodiac, including the rooster and the dog. Regular Excalibur floats feature Merlin and Morgana. Guest riders include nine members of LSU's 1958 national championship football team, whose defensive unit was known as the Chinese Bandits. Bag of Donuts band members ride as grand marshals.
7:30 p.m. Friday
Theme: A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That
King: David Charles Rollo
Queen: Brandi Lynn Bourgeois
For nearly 40 years, the Krewe of Atlas has tried to mix it up in Metairie. This year's theme juggles a potpourri of floats depicting everything from smoke signals to computers, jesters to weather.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11
11 a.m. Saturday
Location: West Bank
Theme: Listen to the Music
Chief: Bill Bubrig
Princess: Brittany Bubrig
Throws: plush tomahawks and spears, captain's wooden nickels
The Krewe of Choctaw puts on a hit parade. Floats will feature Elvis' "Hound Dog," Madonna's "Material Girl," "Twist and Shout," Garth Brooks' "Rodeo" and KISS's "Calling Dr. Love."
11:45 a.m. Saturday
Location: West Bank
Theme: Adonis in Louisiana: 200 Years
King: Theodore "Teddy" Morgan
Queen: Iliana Maria Morgan
Throws: krewe cups, doubloons and coozies
The krewe celebrates Louisiana's bicentennial. Floats will depict local culture and history. Sample subjects include voodoo, seafood, Lake Pontchartrain, Jean Lafitte, swamps and the maritime industry.
2 p.m. Saturday
Theme: Where is What Louisiana Festival
King: Adam William Winningkoff
Queen: Kelsi Marie Dixon
Throws: Footballs, large cups, 3-D grouper medallion beads and new krewe insignia magnets
The Krewe of Pontchartrain continues its puzzling ways with viewers challenged to guess the names and locations of Louisiana festivals depicted on floats. The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival and French Quarter Festival are a couple of easy ones. They get more challenging. The Big Easy Rollergirls will join the procession. The krewe is introducing a new throw: doubloon-sized magnets depicting its symbol, a grouper.
6 p.m. Saturday
Theme: Festivals of the World
Emperor: David Lapuyade
Empress: Ashleigh Glidden
Throws: plush leopards, foam spears, light-up beads, krewe cups and throwing discs
Caesar's family-friendly procession will feature Sesame Street's Elmo and Cookie Monster as grand marshals. Floats will depict festivals from around the globe, including England's Renaissance Festival, Germany's Oktoberfest, Mexico's Day of the Dead, Hawaii's Polynesian Festival and the Chinese New Year. The krewe throws an array of krewe emblem items and light-up beads.
6 p.m. Saturday
Theme: Le Carnaval des Animaux
King: announced day of parade
Queen: Erin Elizabeth Patin
Throws: LED medallion beads, krewe cups, coozies, throwing discs and anniversary medallions, the Spartan mystery throw
The Knights of Sparta celebrate their 60th anniversary, and officers will hand out commemorative "Sparta Gazette" posters. The theme is carried out in French with animals and birds, including "Le Loup" (the wolf), "Le Cigne" (the swan) and "Le Chanticleer" (the rooster). Sparta maintains many Carnival traditions and the procession features a mule-drawn king's float, mounted officers and flambeaux.
6:45 p.m. Saturday
Theme: The Name of the Game Is...
King: Brent Starring
Queen: Dr. Celine Lemieux
Throws: stuffed Pygmammoths, doubloons in many colors, Junior Pygmalion medallion beads
The Krewe of Pygmalion introduces a new signature float: the Pygmammoth. The woolly beast carries 10 riders and is equipped with fiber optic lights. Special throws will depict the creature. Theme floats will feature popular games such as Monopoly, Candy Land, Connect 4 and Hungry Hungry Hippos. St. Augustine's Marching 100 is among the procession's 10 marching bands.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12
Location: West Bank
Theme: Alla's Astrological Odyssey
Maharajah: Russell S. Lloyd
Maharani: Christy Marie Lawson
Throws: Plush spears and roses, a variety of cups and doubloons
The Krewe of Alla marks its 80th anniversary by looking to the stars. Signs of the zodiac will be depicted on floats, and the procession includes the Coonass and Allagator signature floats. Jay Paul Molinere and R.J. Molinere from Swamp People will ride as special guests. Alla always has a strong contingent of bands, and participating schools include St. Augustine's Marching 100, O. Perry Walker, West Jefferson High School and the U.S. Marine Corps band.
Theme: Celebrate Louisiana
King: Kirk Leonard
Queen: Ashley Michelle Cuccia
Throws: Louisiana state flags, theme medallion beads, a variety of krewe logo beads
The Krewe of Carrollton honors Louisiana's bicentennial. Floats depict aspects of Louisiana history and culture such as riverboats, voodoo and wildlife.
1:15 p.m. Sunday
Theme: King Arthur Celebrates the Louisiana Statehood Bicentennial
King Arthur: Rhett Gonzales
Guinevere: Donna F. Gonzales
Throws: plush dragons and spears
The Knights of King Arthur celebrate their 35th anniversary by saluting Louisiana's 200th. Floats will depict Cajun culture, the French Quarter and LSU.
2 p.m. Sunday
Theme: Rocking with the Oldies
King: Allen Joseph Boudreaux
Queen: Chelsea Danielle Boudreaux
Throws: long beads and plush animals
Thor features a couple of firsts. The Tulane University marching band will lead the procession in its first Carnival parade in Metairie, and also appearing for the first time at Mardi Gras on Veterans Memorial Boulevard is Chris Owens, who will be dressed as Elvis. The floats cover hit songs from various eras, and they include "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Return to Sender" and "Proud Mary." Gibson Guitar will have a float featuring some of its recording artists as parade guests.