50 years ago this week, New Orleans witnessed the first parade of the Krewe of Bacchus, one of the most influential and important krewes in Carnival history. Bacchus was founded in 1968 by leaders of the hospitality industry, including restaurateurs Owen "Pip" Brennan Jr. and his uncle Dick Brennan Sr., who hoped to give the weekend before Fat Tuesday a tourism boost. At the time, there were no major parades on that weekend.
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Bacchus succeeded by selecting a celebrity king and creating a parade with oversized animated floats (produced by Blaine Kern, also a founding member), first-rate bands, tons of throws and a post-parade party called the Rendezvous, open to all.
Actor and comedian Danny Kaye was the first in a long line of Bacchus celebrity monarchs that includes Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal, Michael Keaton, Drew Brees, Will Ferrell, Anthony Mackie and last year's Bacchus, J.K. Simmons.
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The first Bacchus parade, with the theme "The Best Things in Life," rolled on Feb. 16, 1969, with 15 floats carrying some 250 male riders.
The next day's Times-Picayune proclaimed, "The brash newcomer had promised the biggest floats ever — bigger than Rex — and some exciting ideas in animation. Bacchus didn't exaggerate. The floats were outstanding and the crowds, which turned out six deep along the entire parade route despite brisk winds and temperatures in the mid-40s, seemed to agree that Bacchus had lived up to its promise." This year's parade, with actor Jensen Ackles serving as monarch, rolls March 3.